‘Daft Batts’, a workshop tutored by Anne Artis. (pictures below)
Anne Artis, an ever popular tutor from Callander, was joined by twenty-one Highland Guild members for her workshop entitled ‘Daft Batts’. We were invited to come prepared with a variety of fibre preparation tools but, in fact, only needed access to a drum carder after an initial session with hand carders.
Anne set out her aim for the day: “This workshop is a serious exploration of the interplay of fibres, texture and colour. By the end of the day you will remember the difference between woollen and worsted yarn, understand why we make rolags, and why batts offer interesting byways from our usual yarns.”
Our first activity was to make mini batts for woollen spinning, using hand carders, which we then rolled sideways onto cardboard tubes (another great use for kitchen and toilet roll holders). At this point we were informed the day would focus on taking batts home to be spun later as there would be no time for spinning. How right that proved to be.
Although encouraged to use all the fibre and incorporate plenty of air, we were reminded about RIRO – ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ and the impossibility of making a silk purse from sow’s ear. Anne emphasised the use of clean fleece with double cuts, weak fibres and skin-end regrowth removed.
Next, we progressed to working in pairs (with one trio), with a drum carder for each pair. Noting Mabel Ross advice, we only fed small amounts of fleece in at a time. During the morning, we used a base fibre of Beltex fleece: on its own, kid silk mohair, white alpaca, brown alpaca, black alpaca, mulberry silk and silk noil. There was even time to make a batt with a variety of these fibres.
After lunch, we settled to a change of focus – the use of colour: “analogous, contrast, bright, subtle? Think about what will make you happy. If you are brave, select the opposite.” Anne encouraged us to choose a colour we didn’t like, for the base fibre. It was eye-opening to see how many people chose yellow from the range of bright colours.
The piles of batts grew ever-taller as we combined colours and comparisons with sunsets and sweets were made. This activity could have gone on for hours but the addition of silk noil and throwsters waste beckoned, to say nothing of wool neps. By half-past three it was time to begin clearing up, but not before Anne had demonstrated a non-tool batt. This she did with the use of two large knitting needles (one won’t do): tops were arranged as if for felting and then rolled onto the needles, as if making a puni. I am sure, with practise, this could be a quick and easy way of making rolags in a confined space using minimal equipment.
Anne’s suggestions for using our ‘not so daft batts included spinning them and using the results for knitting or weaving cushion covers samples, perhaps alternating the rows with plain yarn. This workshop revealed the tip of an iceberg – there was potential for so much more even another full day may not have been enough to enable us to explore colour and texture thoroughly.
Our grateful thanks go to Anne for such an enjoyable day and giving us an insight into the production of such a variety of ‘daft batts’. People’s pleasure was evident throughout the day and, at times, there were periods of total calm and concentration. Let’s hope this is a springboard to future blending workshops.