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Woolly Weekend -- Electric Colours

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

Manor Farm in nearby Botley is set up to be a family-friendly day out -- a lot of people-friendly farm animals, barns and houses set up to reflect farm life during the Victorian era and during World War II.

White Philip, shown here living deliciously and dreaming of butter.

A few of the contented alpacas; they were shorn just before the Woolly Weekend, and I was allowed to rummage through the resulting fleece -- happily made off with a bag of white, one of brown, and one of deep black.

This is my favourite chicken on the site because it looks remarkably like my cat Tiny Toast. It's feathers, obviously, but looks like it's got long fur.

The weekend of 18-19 June 2022 was their 'Woolly Weekend' -- interactive crafts for the kids, and me set up in a corner with my Ashford Traveller.

I took along my usual demo set up -- a sample of both raw and scoured wool so that people could feel the difference, my little Cricket loom set up with handspun wool, and a couple of handspindles. The knitted stuff, such as the jumper and afghan, were supplied by the Farm and their volunteers.

I was out there on the Sunday, which was Father's Day, so there were quite a few people in and out of the little barn where I was set up. It's always good working with the general public in this way, as I get asked really interesting questions about the history of spinning, how the wheel works, and what one can actually do with handspun.

Bag of yarn from the day, with my Louet S-40 lurking in the background.

At the end of the session, I had several full bobbins of white Border Leceister singles. Before I had a chance to ply them, it was already July. I took advantage of the heat wave to solar-dye several skeins in Koolade -- I used to drink this stuff as a kid in the 1970s; it's a staple at summer camps and kid-orientated activities (and imfamous if it's made with warmer/tap water. I brought these packets back from the USA on my visit in April, as it's only like .25 a packet, but extortionately priced here in the UK as an exotic import.

Tiny looking less than impressed as usual.

I have to admit, the smell of it had two effects: one, immediately to make me think of summers when I was still in single digits (and the entire garden smelled like Popsicles the whole time the skeins were drying); two, to rear back from the overpowering chemical fruity scent. Seriously, I have lichen simmering in ammonia in the garden that isn't as overpowering as this stuff.

First batch is done -- these are the singles drying on the line. It's since been plied. Colours are from grape, wild cherry (which came out a nice brick red), and 'Tropical Punch.'

The next batch will be sun-nuked through to the top of the week when it's supposed to hit the 90s.

The last time I did this kind of dyeing was in the 1990s, I think, and ended up knitting up a pair of multicoloured gloves.

Biggest disappointment: Koolade long-ago discontinued a 'Berry Blue' flavour that produced the best blues on fibre. The updated version of this flavour doesn't give anywhere near as fabulous a colour, sadly. You get shocking colours on white fibre, but subtle tweeds on grey fibres. The flavour didn't sell well -- but I remember the spinning/dyeing community being up in arms about it because of the great shades you could get. There was some serious horsetrading on eBay for a while with the last remaining packets. I still have some of my blue yarn dyed with that stuff; it was amazing.

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