Welcome to Cette Petite Maison

My name is Carol-Ann and I am a maker and crafter of all kinds of things and with Cette Petite Maison (This Little House) I hope to share a little bit of my life here in the beautiful rural Quercy Blanc area of France and introduce you to some of my neighbours and their wonderful produce.

I am trying a embrace a simpler lifestyle, working towards sustainability so I am offering a small range of items, made, grown and harvested locally by neighbours and friends and I hope that the phrase Products with Provenance resonates.

If you would like to follow along, it would be lovely to have your company, just add your name and e-mail to Follow my Blog below, and I promise not to inundate you with too many posts.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Making Magic with Wivey Weaver – Yarn Alchemy

This is the second interview in my Making Magic series, where I chat to Crafters and Makers I admire and I hope you find their stories inspirational.

Today I would like you to meet Heather of Wivey Weaver - Yarn Alchemy. I was drawn to Heathers work not only because it is beautiful but because she epitomises HandMade. Heather is capable of taking a fleece, dyeing it, spinning it and weaving it into something truly extraordinary and she has my utmost admiration. This is her story.......

Tell us when and why you started Wivey Weaver – Yarn Alchemy? Wivey Weaver – Yarn Alchemy was launched about 3 years ago when I opened my shop on Etsy.  Up until then everything I made was gifted for Christmas and birthday presents but, there are only so many scarves you can give to people!  It took me another year to pluck up the courage to start taking my handmade items out to craft shows and actually face my customers personally.  I am a very private person so putting myself “out there” physically was way out of my comfort zone.  Gradually, I have got used to being “on show” but nearly always I have my spinning wheel with me at shows so she becomes the point of interest rather than me!

What drew you to yarn and which came first?
As a teenager I did a lot of crochet and cross stitch work but had always wanted to learn to weave.  Weaving classes only ever seemed to be held during the daytime when I was working so it wasn’t until I was sacked from my job in 2009 (therein lies a tale of unscrupulous legal firms!) that I had the opportunity to join a weaving class to learn the basics.  I took to weaving like the proverbial “duck to water” and, for me, it isn’t the complexity of the weave but just sitting at the loom and creating, even the simplest of weaves are a pleasure.  From there I got talked into learning to spin my own yarn and, lastly, about 3 years ago a friend loaned me some of her natural dyestuffs, jars etc. to encourage me to dye my own yarn … that started me down the path I now follow which is a virtually full time venture … a very slow process which I love and the circle now complete … though maybe slightly wonky in its path … I wash fleece direct from the sheep, spin the fibre into yarn, natural dye it and then weave it.

Can you tell us a little about using natural plant dyes?
Apart from sometimes being a very messy and foul smelling business, natural dyes are fascinating.  Virtually every plant from a garden or from the wild will give some form of dye … some you never want to use twice as they don’t give much dye, or it is a colour you would never use … others give the most unexpected colours, such as the berries from Leycesteria (Pheasant Berry) which are black but give a bright ginger dye on wool, or the leaves and soft stems from Griselinia which are a beautiful mossy green but give a deep pinkish brown dye.  I now try to dye with everything which gets cut back from my own garden (or anyone else’s garden when they will allow me in), both simmering leaves/stems/flowers on the hob or in a solar dyepot sitting in the sun.  It is a craft which you learn the hard way … if you have ever opened a solar dyepot with nettles or comfrey a few weeks after you first created it, trust me, with the smell of it you never want to try that a second time!  You also learn to open jars slowly and carefully outside as some can be quite “gassy” … my first ever solar dyepot of Goldenrod somewhat surprised me when I tried to undo the lid and it exploded out of the jar … I didn’t know what to clear up first, the side of the conservatory, the patio and table or me as it quite literally went everywhere!  There is never a dull moment, lots of lovely surprises along with a few unpleasant ones but, gradually I am building up a list of plants I use every year, many of which I am gradually planting in my own small garden and quite a few that I know I never want to try again!  Mother Nature throws a few curves too such as Dandelion flowers giving a wonderful dye the first year I tried them but, the past 2 years have given no dye at all … unpredictable but great fun … highly recommended for anyone with a garden!
How long does it take to create a one of your Luxury Hand Woven Scarf with Hand Spun yarn from start to finish and can you take us through the steps?
That’s a bit of an open ended question … it very much depends on the thickness of the yarn and the intricacy of the design you want to weave but … taking an average width, length and simple design scarf in, say, 4 ply/sport weight yarn, I first have to wind the warp (the length) of around 120 to 200 threads in the order required for my design, transfer that to my loom and then wind the full length onto the back of my loom, pull each individual thread through a heddle which is attached to a particular shaft of the loom (which gives you the design, dependent upon which of the 8 shafts of my loom are being used for that design at any one time) and then thread each one through the reed (which spaces the warp out to the correct width you wish to weave), lastly tie the threads onto the front beam of the loom and then try to get every thread tensioned the same.  After that you can start weaving!  I would say that there are around 5-7 hours work in getting the warp onto the loom before you start weaving with the weft and finally seeing whether you have done all of the above processes correctly … if not, you go back and correct the errors!  Weaving time for a fully hand woven piece ie. no automation, I would say a further 10 to 15 hours but, for something like the shawl in this picture made with my handspun merino yarn which is then natural privet dyed, the making time overall is more likely 30 to 40 hours for each shawl - definitely a "labour of love".

I know you sell online and in person can you tell us all the places we can find you.
I have my own website at Wivey Weaver - Yarn Alchemy but I still have a shop on Folksy which I might revive at some point in the future.  I am trying to start selling on Facebook whenever I have new handwoven scarves or handspun yarns but, at the moment that really isn’t proving very fruitful.  My main sales come from the craft shows I attend and there is a list of shows pinned to the top of my Facebook page.  Social media is not my favourite pastime, more a “necessary evil”, in fact anything to do with technology is a no-go area if I can manage to avoid it but it is an essential part of any business these days so I do my best to keep Facebook up to date and also use Instagram and, very occasionally, Pinterest  I would much rather be making things than be sitting in front of a computer!

What does the future hold for Wivey  Weaver – Yarn Alchemy?
The future for Wivey Weaver – Yarn Alchemy will not change dramatically from where I am now I think … the time it takes to hand make everything means that I cannot make items any faster or in larger quantities.  Unlike so many small enterprises, I am not willing to compromise on my ethics or using the best fibre and yarn and producing truly hand made, unique pieces and, at the same time, making them affordable.  I have seen many people fall into the trap of over-charging and they sell nothing.  I will continue in the same way as now … I definitely won’t be retiring early (if at all) as this is a business for those who create because they enjoy the whole process rather than aiming to make any form of profit.  So Wivey Weaver – Yarn Alchemy will continue to stand for “Hand Made With Love”!