Woodland Walk Wrap

Helen modelling her bright yellow handwoven wrap.
Helen modelling her beautiful handspun, handwoven and hand-dyed wrap. (C) Helen Allen

Helen tells us all about her scarf that was selected for the RE23 Sustainable Fashion Show in March 2023. As she puts it, “The yellow scarf has been hand spun, hand woven and hand dyed.  As an example of the kind of work our guild does, it ticks a lot of boxes and as it’s make entirely from local biodegradable fibres it also ticks a lot of eco boxes !”

Jacob fleece being sorted in the garden (c) Helen Allen

It begins its story in times of covid, in the 2020 lockdown. A friend has a small mixed flock and so was glad to supply the fleece, it’s a byproduct from a meat producing flock that may otherwise have been binned or burned.  Of course, it needed sorting, washing and drying, then carding before it could be spun. I discarded as much as I kept, selecting the nicest bits of the multicoloured Jacob for this project. Washing and drying was mostly done outside, as the weather was kind. Luckily I enjoy hand carding as much as I enjoy spinning, I find joy in the repetition of movement, and pleasure watching these fibres turning into something nice and useable… stacking up little piles of ready to use fleece in quiet moments became part of my daily routine for a while.

Fibre spun and plied ready for weaving. (c) Helen Allen

The spinning was then done on my Ashford Traveller, a great little wheel that I’ve had since I taught myself to spin about ten years ago. I spun a strong two ply yarn for the warp, and fat floofy singles for the weft, did some weaving maths and calculated I had enough to begin the weaving. I have an Ashford rigid heddle loom and love the rhythm of a plain weave. I enjoy playing with handspun textures and colours in the fabrics I produce, but in this instance I let the Jacob colours come through randomly as they appeared in the process, as I knew I wanted to dye the finished fabric. 

Rigid heddle loom warped up (c) Helen Allen

The yellow scarf is actually one of three, one was left undyed, one was dipped in an indigo vat, and this the last, was dyed with a fungi I found in the forest, a dyers mazegill.

Mushrooms found in the woods and harvested for dyeing (c) Helen Allen

I have a couple of big stock pots that I like to use for plant dyeing, so I began to simmer all I had of the dyestuff to create the colour, and some interesting aromas.. before leaving it to cook for an hour or so. Then to cool overnight, before doing the same again, this time with the fabric in the pot … it turned almost immediately to a dirty dark yellow, very satisfying!  I left it to sit overnight to cure before rinsing and drying. The resulting colour is the bright sunshiny yellow you see today.

Dyed scarf coming out of the dye pot. (c) Helen Allen

Find this project on ravelry and me on Instagram as @woodlandhelen

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