fbpx

2019 spring workshops

Small group workshops or private lessons. Book by clicking on the photos, or email me for more information.

13 & 20 April Knitting for Beginners  – if you’re new to knitting or just starting to find your way.

27 April & 11 May Meditating the Spindle – learning to make your own bespoke yarn

18 May Eco Kitchen – learn to make beeswax wraps, handmade dishcloths and tips for making your kitchen more eco-friendly and less plastic-y!

Meditating the Spindle Masterclass for Artists – a one-on-one immersive workshop for artists. Tailored for your practice and curiosity, there’s a lot of experimenting and fun! Email me to discuss your needs and to make a date.

 

Meditating the Spindle Masterclass for Artists

I had the pleasure of working with ceramic artist Kirsten Stingle in a Meditating the Spindle Masterclass. Kirsten was here in Rome for a month-long residency at CRETA, an international centre that promotes ceramics and visual arts. Kirsten uses mixed media in her practice and was keen to explore using fibre.

As well as mastering the art of using a spindle with wool and silk, we experimented with incorporating feathers, silk loom waste, and cotton thread. For artists spinning your own materials can be freeing and lead to all kinds of happy discoveries. There are so many ways you can combine colours and textures to create something unique to use in your work.

In a Meditating the Spindle you get to work one-on-one with me for six hours over two days. You will start to get an idea of what is possible and how you can adapt different materials for use in your artistic practice.

You can also add extra short modules in experimental mixed media including

  • silk papermaking

  • embroidery

  • using found objects

  • spinning paper

The Masterclass can be adapted to your needs and current artistic curiosities – email me to start the conversation!

 

 

 

Sock yarn success!

So, my hunt for 100% natural fibre sock yarn for my Sock Wizard Workshop was successful! As I said in my previous post, I found a number of yarns that looked good and met my criteria of

  • wool and other natural fibres like silk or mohair
  • no plastics (nylon or polyamide)
  • no superwash
  • affordability
  • minimal air miles.

My shortlist for this workshop was

All the yarns on my shortlist were 100 per cent natural wool, had good reviews on Ravelry and were suitable for socks. It was a hard decision but Bio Shetland and Isager Highland Wool from Lankakauppa TitiTyy in Finland won the day. It came down to a close finish with Blacker Yarns British Classic 4ply, but in the end the yarn from Titityy was slightly cheaper and the postage was €15 instead of £23, and it was coming via a courier instead of Royal Mail. So I knew I would get my yarn within days and not weeks. Titityy’s customer service was excellent, friendly emails were exchanged, they shipped my order the next day (Friday) and it arrived safely on Monday. I’m looking forward to buying more yarn from them, especially their Tukuwool Sock which looks luscious.

I’m keen to try other non-plastic options for socks too, so Blacker Yarns’ Mohair Blend is still on my list. I’m thinking of adding a natural sock wool page to this website – would that be a useful resource? Let me know what you think and any suggestions!

 

searching for sock yarn…

Well, to be more precise, searching for non-plastic sock yarn. Which is much more difficult than you might think. Most commercial sock yarn either has nylon added to it or is made from superwash yarn, and now I know what that means I don’t want to use them anymore. Which is a real shame because sock yarns come in great colours and cool self-striping and other patterns.

There has been an unquestioned assertion in the handknitted sock world that socks ‘need’ to have nylon to make them stronger and more resilient, less likely to wear and pill. Similarly, it’s assumed that the yarn must be superwash, so they can be thrown in the washing machine for ‘easy care’. But for the reasons I outlined in my previous post on why I choose to use wool and other natural fibres, I don’t want to knit or wear plastic and I’m happy to handwash. So, what’s wrong with superwash? After all it’s still wool, yes? Well yes, but. And the ‘but’ is what they do to the wool, so it can be put through a washing machine without felting, shrinking, stretching or otherwise being destroyed. The wool is processed by being exposed to chlorine as a gas or bath to remove the scales that give wool the slightly fluffy halo of fibres. Then it’s coated in plastic resin.  Some of the sources I consulted gave this as a two-step process (treated with chlorine then plastic-coated, others stated that superwash processing can be done with the chemical or the added plastic resin. Either way there are a lot of chemicals being used and a lot of toxic waste going into the waterways. While the end product yarn isn’t toxic to use or wear, the superwash process is incredibly bad for the environment and for the people who are doing the processing. In my book that’s worse than synthetic yarn because you have ruined a perfectly good natural yarn. You can read more about superwash yarns here, here and here.

As I’m teaching a Sock Wizard Workshop for The Bird House Panicale next month and we are absolutely committed to eco-friendly textiles, I can’t compromise my principles and give my students yarn I’m not happy to use myself.

In the meantime, I have been scouring the internet looking for the right yarn, using the following criteria:

  • wool and other natural fibres like silk or mohair
  • no plastics (nylon or polyamide)
  • no superwash
  • affordability (there are some gorgeous yarns out there but €30 a skein is a bit much for beginners)
  • minimal air miles (so far I haven’t found Italian sock yarn but I’ll keep looking and asking).

I’ve discovered that mohair or silk make a perfectly acceptable alternative to nylon. Some knitters say that using a strong, long-fibre wool like Blue Faced Leicester is adequate and can be used alone or blend with merino. Merino by itself is soft but doesn’t wear well.

So here’s the short list and I’ll come back and let you know which yarn or yarns I choose!

I would love to know what you think about nylon and superwash in sock yarns, or if you’ve tried the non-plastic alternatives and what you recommend.

2019 winter/spring workshops

Happy New Year and welcome to 2019! My usual resolution is to learn a new skill, and for me this year it’s drawing. I like playing around with pencils and ink and charcoal but it’s not something I’m confident about. So a more methodical approach to drawing is top of my 2019 list! If learning something new is on your list too, sign up for a Counterweave workshop. Click on the images to find out more or email me at [email protected] if you have any questions.

2 February                   Knitting for Beginners (Rome) – if you’re new to knitting or just starting to find your way.

16 & 23 February       Sock Wizard Workshop for The Bird House Panicale  (Rome) – make your own cosy wool socks.

9 & 16 March               Meditating the Spindle (Rome) – learning to make your own bespoke yarn

 

Small group workshops or private lessons.

Sock Wizard Workshop

This year as well as my usual textile and knitting classes, I’m teaching for a new eco-textile business The Bird House, Panicale, in Rome and Umbria.

Classes kick off with a 2-day Sock Wizard Workshop on 16 & 23 February in Rome.

Nothing feels as snug and luxurious as a hand knitted sock and as an added bonus, sock knitting looks a lot more difficult than it really is. Impress your friends by learning to wield yarn and knit with four double pointed needles to make your own soft, cosy socks.

Using the top down method you will learn to make a pair of basic socks with a simple ribbed cuff and easy wedge toe.

Participants will need to know how to knit, purl, decrease, increase, cast on and cast off. Knowing how to knit in the round is an advantage, but not necessary.

Please note: This workshop is run over two Saturday afternoons, 16th and 23rd February 2019, commencing at 13.30 and finishing 16.30 on each day. Price is €95.00 for the complete workshop including materials.

Click on the photo to find out more and book your place!

 

How do you use your handspun yarn?

My students are sometimes sceptical that you can use a spindle to spin enough yarn to make anything bigger than a coaster! But remember, before industrialisation all yarn and thread was spun by hand, and before spinning wheels were introduced to Europe in the early middle ages, all that spinning was done on a spindle.  Linen, hemp, cotton, nettles, silk and wool were spun by hand then woven into fabric to make everything from swaddling for babies, all household linens, garments, uniforms and shrouds. The thread for every ship’s sail from the Greeks and Phoenicians through the Romans, Vikings and the Normans was spun by hand using a spindle. For centuries societies were dependent on the skill and labour of women for their survival and expansion. Spinning wasn’t a hobby or something picked up at odd moments; it was something that women had to do constantly, and arguably was as crucial to survival as hunting and farming. And in many countries spindles are still used as part of everyday life, usually by women and children as they go about their daily tasks.

From that perspective spinning yarn to make a pullover or a shawl doesn’t seem so impossible. But you might wonder when we have the choice of buying readymade garments or yarn, why bother making your own? For me, I like being able to make my own yarn in the fibres and colours of my choice – I choose to make my own bespoke yarn.  Spinning is also a very satisfying craft, you’re magically turning fibre into yarn with a minimum of equipment. Most museums have a collection of spindles that are thousands of years old and yet still perfectly useable, like these beautiful spindle whorls in the British Museum.

My fingers always itch when I see spindle whorls like these trapped behind glass! I want to take them out and use them. All you need is a smooth stick, a spindle whorl and some fibre and you can make yarn. Making is also incredibly soothing and good for the soul: spinning can be very relaxing, almost meditative. Spinning links me back to generations of women who spun yarn and thread as a matter of course, because their families depended on their skill to keep them clad, warm and alive.

Keeping warm was very much behind my decision to make myself a pair of mittens after spending a weekend in beautiful Umbria and finding that my hands needed more than fingerless gloves in the icy winds of Perugia. I found a lovely pattern by knitting guru Kate Atherley and went online to check out my yarn options (I say online because there are few yarn shops in Italy which stock 100% natural fibre yarns – a topic for another blog post!). Then I realised I had exactly those colours in my fibre stash and I could easily spin some yarn for my mittens. And because the recommended yarn was an Icelandic lopi I could spin singles and make my fibre go a whole lot further. A single is just what it says on the tin – a single spun yarn, not two or more yarns spun together to make a plied yarn. Singles are lofty and warm, and can be lightly felted so your mittens are extra cosy against the winter winds.

Anther question students ask is how much yardage a spindle holds. To which the answer is, it depends. If you’re spinning a laceweight yarn for a shawl or fingering for socks, you will spin a much finer yarn and get much more yardage than if you’re spinning a worsted or aran weight yarn. Plied yarn takes more fibre than spinning a single.  It’s always a good idea to spin a sample, just as you would knit a swatch before knitting a garment, or make a toile before sewing a dress.

Here are the two lots of fibres I’m using to make my yarn. Both are from Hilltop Cloud, an online business supplying gorgeous quality fibres and tools, run by spinner and dyer Katie Weston in Wales (I also buy my workshop spindles and fibre from Katie). The blue is 50% merino, 25% Shetland and 25% bamboo, in shade Airforce Blue, and the fiery orange is 62.5% merino, 25% mulberry silk and 12.5% baby alpaca in shade Hawaii. I’m using the blue as the main colour and the orange as the contrast – the sheen given by the silk in the orange fibre makes a perfect highlight against the soft fuzz of the wool.

This photo shows the difference that finishing makes to handspun yarn. The blue yarn has been gently handwashed in warm water with a little wool wash added and allowed to sit for about 15 minutes so the twist in the spun yarn relaxes and the yarn blooms. You can see the unfinished orange yarn is still full of unrelaxed energy and is coiled against itself. If I tried to knit the unfinished yarn the twist would make the knitted fabric warp and bias, which is not what you want in a mitten!

 

 

Autumn workshops

Come and join us for our autumn workshops! Counterweave craft classes are fun and relaxing. My approach combines technical know-how with calm encouragement and stress-reducing meditation.

To book your place, just click on the the name of the workshop. If you can’t make these dates, please email me at [email protected] and we can organise a private lesson.

September

October

November

December

 

free shipping!

 

Counterweave has free shipping on all items in the Etsy shop until the end of April! Now is the time to treat yourself or someone special to a unique piece of Australian art.  Click on the photos to go to Etsy.

Currently in stock we have wearable art by weaver Mary Burgess, hand-dyed silk and wool scarves, book art and small weaving by textile and mixed media artist Felicity Griffin Clark. You can also buy gift certificates for art pieces and Counterweave workshops ranging from €25 up to €150.

No coupon or code required, we did all the work for you and free shipping is already added! Just click on the item you want, pay with your credit card or Paypal and it’s yours!

new workshop dates!

Check out the new knitting, spining and dyeing workshops at Counterweave Arts! Check the workshop calendar and book your place – click here!

Knitting for Beginners

Thursday 26 April 14:00-17:00

Saturday 19 May 14:00-17:00

If you’re new to knitting or are just starting to find your way, come and join me for a Saturday afternoon of gentle introduction to knitting.

Learn the fundamental knit and purl stitches, how to cast on and off, how to choose the right yarn and what to do with your first piece of knitting. My approach combines technical know-how with calm encouragement and stress-reducing meditation.

Knitting needles, merino wool yarn and class notes are provided.

Min 2, max 6 students.

Cost: €60 incl IVA and material

 

 

Meditating the Spindle

 

2 Sundays – Sunday 27 May and 3 June 14:00-17:00

Why make your own yarn? Spinning on a drop spindle is fun, creative and relaxing. Spend two Saturday afternoons learning to spin your own bespoke yarn – experiment with different types of fibres, choose how fine or chunky, smooth or nubbly you want your thread to be. Come to a Meditating the Spindle workshop and learn to spin organic, natural wool and beautiful lustrous silk. By spinning your own thread you know exactly what’s in it – no shedding microplastics into the environment!

Don’t worry if you’re new to spinning or fibre crafts. Meditating the Spindle workshops are relaxed, calm and encouraging, grounded in gentle meditation to keep you feeling calm, competent and in control. Workshops groups are limited to 6 people so you’re guaranteed personal attention and support. We also have a lot of fun, tea, coffee and a few treats!

Meditating the Spindle is for
– people with experience in fibre crafts – weavers, knitters, crocheters and textile artists.
– people with no experience in fibre crafts but who are interested in learning a new skill.
– crafters who are concerned about the environment and shedding microplastics from their craft materials. At Counterweave we only use 100% natural fibres.
– people who are keen to learn an ancient craft.
– people who are looking for a different way to relax and benefit from meditation and working with their hands.

Spindles, fibre and class notes are provided. Any previous experience with yarn or fibre will be helpful, but not necessary

Min 2, max 6 students.
Cost: €120 incl IVA and materials

Adventures with Indigo

Saturday 9 June  15:00-18:00

Monday 11 June 15:00-18:00

Dyeing with indigo is a special kind of magic. Come and experiment with Counterweave’s indigo vat and see what happens when you dip silk, cotton, wool or paper.

Dye your own bespoke silk scarf using a traditional Japanese shibori technique.

All materials and class notes are provided. Any previous dyeing or stitching experience will be helpful, but not necessary

Min 2, max 6 students.

Cost: €60 incl IVA and materials

Spring workshops!

We are now taking bookings for our first round of workshops for 2018!

Knitting for Beginners

If you’re new to knitting or are just starting to find your way, come and join me for a Saturday afternoon of gentle introduction to knitting.

Learn the fundamental knit and purl stitches, how to cast on and off, how to choose the right yarn and what to do with your first piece of knitting. My approach combines technical know-how with calm encouragement and stress-reducing meditation.

The next Knitting for Beginners class will be on Saturday 17 March 2-5pm.

All materials are provided: you will receive a class kit containing knitting needles, merino wool yarn and class notes.

Min 2, max 6 students.

Cost: €60 incl IVA and materials.

Click here to book your place!

 

*****

Meditating the Spindle

This class will teach the fundamental skills required to use a drop spindle. By the end of the class participants will know and understand the use of the drop spindle; the different fibres that can be used to make different types of thread or yarn; be able to use their spindle to make yarn. They will learn how using a drop spindle can be an aid to mindfulness, meditation and calm.

The next workshops are held on two Saturday afternoons on either side of Easter:

Saturday 7 April & 14 April 2-5pm

Spindles, fibre and class notes are provided. Any previous experience with yarn or fibre will be helpful, but not necessary

Min 2, max 6 students.

Cost: €120 incl IVA and materials

Click here to book your place!