I made my first length of yarn! How bonkers that the craziness of this summer came between such a momentous event and the immediacy of blogging about it?
My first visit to the Montgomeryshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers was back in July. I arrived not a little excited, proudly carrying my small bag of sweet-smelling hot-washed fluff… and my rather hard-to-disguise boot-load of stinky fleece. The ‘Montyguild’ ladies were decidedly unperturbed by my offering of raw sheepiness – in fact another lady had bought along something rather similar to sell. At the first whiff of sheep, the ladies next to me rolled up their sleeves and I was invited to lay out a fleece for what turned out to be a really entertaining masterclass in assessing raw fleeces. We learned how to skirt, how to read a ‘lock’ and spot the change in fibres where a ewe had lambed. We looked at crimp and discussed ‘loft’ and talked about different breeds and types of wool, such as ‘wether’ wool – I just wish I’d written notes. The Suffolk fleece that we looked at had ‘canary stain’, which would wash out, a little cotting and kemp in some places, but was a good size and ‘would make a jumper or two': just the news I’d been hoping for. My other fleeces looked OK too, although the Jacob, which I love for its two tone colouring, looks to be the coarsest of the lot.
‘Wool’ is clearly not a subject you can pick up with a little quick cramming – it’s the years of experience, practice and passion that have resulted in the encyclopaedic knowledge of the ‘Montyguild’ ladies, and it feels good to guided by this knowledge and those steady spinning hands. That day in July, I settled into ‘wool territory’ weirdly content that it would take AGES to reach any level of mastery and that progress simply could not be rushed. As I was given a lesson in the gentle art of carding, I was minded of the first part of ‘The Karate Kid’ film (I’m showing my age) – the bit where the ‘kid’ has to spend about a year painting his master’s fence, perfecting the most particular hand/wrist movement before he gets anywhere near anything recognisable as karate. Mmmm… well, carding proved a mysterious challenge to my wrists and my brain, despite my years of daily practice with a Denman brush on the dreadlocks of my children – and the drop-spindle, it turned out, is no easier (although my teacher made it look a sinch and told me how quickly children pick it up). Humbled by the learning journey which lay ahead of me, I cast my gaze over to the ladies sitting spinning at their wheels, who suddenly seemed very, very far away… I resolved to learn about ‘drawing’ yarn the most direct way, with a drop-spindle, before attempting a wheel… and to practice diligently. Katie, at the Guild, kindly gave me one of her drop spindles (she makes and sells them). So then I just needed to invest in some hand carders. I got an Ashford pair from Dunja at Allinaspin which seems to be working very well:
Below is my first full drop spindle! …and some beginner rolags. It’s a while since I made it to a Guild meeting, so I’m already a bit rusty – I’ve been entertaining a poorly child with YouTube carding tutorials this week(!) while perfecting my lofty rolag. My little fingers may be the bloody victims of some over enthusiastic carding, but I do now have a growing pile of ‘woolly sausages’ on the sideboard and really must hide them from the cat.
It is calm but steady progress.
Karate Kid aside, there are some really amazing completed #1year1outfits (here and here) happening on the other side of the world, and I think I need to advance to a wheel pretty soon if I am not to be naked next May…