Last May I shared with you my experimentation using the museum press to print onto fabric which I then later felted to gauge how usable it would be in my final piece. The experiments worked very well and thanks to our IFA co-ordinator, Linda Hulme, and museum curator, Chris Sharp, I was amongst a group that returned to the mill for a printing session.
I notified Chris in advance that I wanted to print the word wool in as many fonts and sizes of lettering as was possible from the equipment in the archives.
There was a great selection to choose from.
I wanted to mix up the sizes and the fonts as much as possible.
The trick with printing of course is to have the word back to front, NOT like I’ve set them out above. Once they were the correct way round I was ready to ink and position them for printing.
On with silk, followed by a sheet of paper, a felt cover and then ready to go.
This took far more force then I expected and was a real workout. So, feet sliding on the floor, I managed to do one or two before Chris came to my rescue and printed the rest. Either the men using these in the heyday were well muscled or the machines ran more eaily. Perhaps it was a combination of the two.
Photography by Charlie Battersby
Having spun my wool for the Armley Mills project I next needed to weave it. I really wanted to undertake this on a loom at the mill but the only one available was in pieces and was too complicated for me.
I retreated to home and my Ashford knitters loom. the concern I had was if my yarn would stand up to the tension of the warping but I needn’t have worried. The bad news was that I warped it wrong, had to cut it off and start again. I saved all the cut pieces for the weft as I’d only spun a limited amount and couldn’t afford to waste anything.
The fact that this wasn’t the best spun yarn didn’t help with the weaving plus it was the first time I’d woven with handspun yarn. It kept sticking, it was thick and thin, I couldn’t seem to get my edges right but I didn’t worry overmuch as I knew at least one edge would be hidden by the felt.
I ensured all the ends of the cut pieces I’d used for the weft were all on the right hand side and instead of weaving them in at the end I left them hanging like a fringe. It’s not the best weaving I’ve done but I knew it would work for the final piece. Now onto printing.
I wanted not only to follow the wool processes but to do as much of the activity as possible at Armley Mills. Although I can spin I had noticed a great wheel at the museum and wondered about using it to spin up my wool.
Unfortunately the wheel wasn’t in a condition to be used but I was saved by Carl of the Spinners of Aire, a spinning group which meets weekly at Armley Mills on Wednesdays.
Carl Denton had built his own great wheel and readily agreed to teach me how to use it.
You spin from the point, walking backwards whilst drawing out the wool and spinning, then walking forwards to wind on.
Keeping the wheel spinning whilst I walked and drafted was quite hard.
Carl had to help me redraft sections until I got the hang of it and could walk, draft and spin the wheel all at once, not forgetting to breathe.
You can see above why it’s called spinning off the point.
Cracked it! Look how delighted I am. All of my yarn for the weaving was spun on this wheel.
Photography by Charlie Battersby.
My local region of the International Feltmakers Association (IFA) is working on a collaboration with Amley Mills, Leeds Industrial Museum. In spring last year we visited the museum and I came away inspired to create a piece which incorporated the processes of a wool mill with use of as many museum resources as possible.
I wanted to follow the wool through washing, spinning, weaving and felting and to record the journey on a camera from the museum archives. My daughter Charlie was inveigled into wielding the cameras. I say cameras because she used both the Kershaw analog ( it was a Leeds company) and a digital camera for the job.
This was only possible because the museum staff were so co-operative. The cameras on show in the museum couldn’t be used for fear of damaging them but one was found in the archives. Charlie was quite excited to be allowed to handle it especially as we’d never before heard of this local brand.
There isn’t room in these few posts to share all the photos that were taken but as a thank you to Charlie for all her work we did buy her a Kershaw King Penguin of her own.