When I was growing up, fabrics and yarns could be obtained from numerous places. There were several local, high street shops; thriving market stalls in three local towns and mail order suppliers who advertised in various magazines.
My mother's sister was a keen knitter and bought much of her yarn from a couple of mail order companies. In those pre-internet days, the first step was to buy a shade card against which to make choices and place orders. Yarns were very keenly priced but she ordered exactly what she wanted - any element of surprise would have been most unwelcome!
My mother favoured 'bargain bundles' - a 'by-weight' package of specified quality and type - colour and other characteristics being a complete surprise. I can remember the excitement of tipping these packages out on the dining table for inspection. I still have the left-overs of some of them in my stash all these years later - some large felt pieces, a narrow lace bundle, a mixed trimmings (inlcuding broderie anglaise), and a mixed denims bundle. The latter was the only time that I remember the inspection process resulting in disappointment. Dungarees were in fashion and my mother was determined to make me some. There were some small pieces of lovely blue and white striped denim (I still have one piece!) and some solid blue, but there was only one piece which was large enough for her purpose. Unfortunately for me, lilac was neither flattering or fashionable!!
As I started to enjoy crafts I caught the bargain bug. Laura Ashley shops ( I bought from Chester, and also from Guildford - when I lived there after university) sold mixed bags of printed dress cotton off-cuts for patchwork. The bags were densely packed and, although clear cellophane, it was only possible to see the outer layer, the rest remaining a lovely surprise. I bought many of these bags, and made several items - I still have many of the fabric pieces - now considered vintage and thus more attractive than they were when new.
I recently happened across Etsy shop - WorldofWoolShop. They have mixed bundles described as follows:
Basically this is top waste. It consists of dyed tops, dyed fleeces, natural tops, end of runs on the blending machines. Brilliant for felting, needle felting and spinning. This is perfect for beginners. PLEASE NOTE: This is waste, so every delivery will be different and could also contain blends and synthetic fibres.
Wonderful! A bargain, a surprise and I love the idea of creating something from waste or left over materials. I thought I had better wait until we returned from our week end away before placing the order. It came this morning
Now this is a completely random bundle - they couldn't have known the designs which I currently produce, and yet, on sorting the bundle I found that I had:
- meadow grass
very suitable for my meadow designs such as this pincushion
- lovely sunset colours (there was also some bright yellow for the setting sun)
suitable for use in my sunset designs such as this bookmark
- and lovely 'moorland colours'
of the variety that I use to produce my moorland design - as shown in this brooch
Our visit to Bodnant Garden at the week end, has prompted me to reconsider a design idea which first occurred to me several years ago when visiting the gardens of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire. More about this in later posts. It will be necessary to have fibers suitable for felting a 'stonewall' and I looked through my collection only yesterday and realised that I did not have very much that was suitable. Just look what came in today's bundle:
That new design is obviously meant to be!!!
In case you are wondering the fibres have been pictured on the recently-swept conservatory floor where there is good light quality (a 'spillage-free' zone - unlike the kitchen floor onto which I would not tip a fibre bundle - just in case!). As pointed out in the sales description, the bundle does contain non-wool fibres. I am sure there is a 'correct way' to identify one from the other - I find the 'sniff' test to be very effective - sheep have a way of 'naturally labeling' their fleece which persists through all the various processes - at least well enough for a discerning nose to pick up! Everything sent appears suitable for felting - particularly when blended with existing stocks and I'm anxious to get started!