Monday, December 12, 2011

Now Yule Be Ready For Christmas

...If you came to SAW last Saturday!

We did some practical cultural and historical background research - in other words we did lots of Christmassy things!
Wiebke explained what Advent really means and how it's celebrated in some European countries. We made and decorated stockings, pomanders, straw stars and woven paper sweetie bags and then eveyone had a hot Chrismas drink and celebratory food.

Thanks to all Santa's little helpers and a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

See you in 2012 - new season dates to follow soon. In the meantime, you might like to look at a few pictures from 2011.


All best wishes,

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Knots and Pongs!

Dyeing and Weaving session at Priory Coutry Park Visitor Centre, led by Chris Dobson.

It's no wonder dyers and tanners used to live on the outskirts of the town! At SAW in November we took a whiff of some of the pongs created by natural dyestuffs and the 'mordants' - natural salts, such as alum, that were used to make the colour permanent - to me, wool soaking in a weld solution smelt a bit like drains and old socks combined!

Chris showed us all the colours you can make from a small number of plants: Weld, a plant with little yellow flowers produces striking yellows through to mild greens; the root of the Madder plant makes deep reds to red-browns; onion skins create a range of warm browns and tans; but what is most magical, is watching as wool which has been soaking in woad solution, is lifted out of the water and turns from a murky green into strong blue.

We all helped Chris to prepare the woad plants by ripping up the leaves by hand
 which left us all 'green-fingered'!

Everyone got the chance to create their own dye pot to take home - the longer it's left the stronger the colour - we wait to see who leaves their pot the longest!

Then we got weaving!

Chris showed us examples of different hand looms and 'heads' which twist the threads to make more complicated patterns - some heads are made of wood and some of leather and they come in different shapes with varying numbers of holes.

Most people got themselves in a bit of a tangle trying to understand the deceptively simple craft of 'stick-weaving' - that is using a stick to hold the ends of two colours of wool, in order to hand-weave a braid. It's not as easy as Chris made it look!

On top of all this activity Aidan was filming the session , finding out how everyone was getting on - so we can't wait to see his results.

Despite the knots and pongs, everyone seemed to have a good time, so we say a big 'Thank You' to Chris for all her superb information and for passing on her skills and 'thank you' to Jane and everyone at Priory Country Park for letting us use your facilities and to all the helpers, including 'Jim-the-Camera'.

Next session Saturday, see you there!

Wrapped-up in Paper

Charlie's Frogmore Paper Mill visit Review.

My visit to Frogmore Paper Mill was a very enjoyable and interesting one. I found out lots of information including how they make handmade paper, how old the mill is and what they put in the paper.

In the 1200's the mill was a corn mill called Covent Mill and they only know this from written records. In the 1700's the mill started making paper by hand and then by machine in 1803. They still make handmade paper and this weighs up to 600grams. Paper made by machine weighs 110 - 350 gsm. An approximate calculation shows that they make about 250,000,000 sheets of A4 paper a year.

On our tour we got to see and make handmade paper. First of all they mix minced paper with water and then drain the water away. This mixture is known as 'crumble'. They then get a big tub and add the crumble into it the mixture is then made complete by adding  90% of water. They then get frames that are made out of wire and wood and sift the solution onto them till the whole of the frame is covered. They then sponge the water out and tip the paper mixture onto the mat which is made out of felt. The mat then gets put onto a heater and turns white paper into even whiter paper. You then have to get another mat and leave it there to dry. Your paper is now finished.

Sometimes the mill adds Banana skins, wild flower seeds, denim jeans, petals, Elephant dung and sometimes bank notes that are shredded up into the paper mixture.