Two Little Skeins
Two little skeins ..... well, it's a start! This is what DH and I produced today at Hilltop in Lyminge where the art of spinning, weaving and dyeing is taught by Sue Chitty and husband, Bill. Mine's the one at the front and DH's is the bluer one at the rear.
It was a great day but let me start at the beginning. When we got there, after being offered a cuppa, we initially looked at Sue's two spinning wheels and she explained some of the differences and the potential benefits of having a wheel that is portable, etc. We were also shown the loom and were given a description of how to set it up and the process of weaving. Some of the materials that had been woven on it were set out for us to see and we were fascinated by the diversity that was possible.
We then discussed various fleeces and Sue showed us the difference between Badger Face (named so because this sheep literally has a face like a badger) and Wensleydale. The Wensleydale was very different, being long and curly and had to be combed as opposed to merely carded. Sue demonstrated the combing and explained that the dross, grit and any thorns had to be removed. We also had a look at some fleeces in their just shorn state (i.e. not washed or sorted) and some of the different types of tops to spin with. We felt the difference between the various tops (the merino was by far the softest) and we took some Corriedale tops in deep blue and white and some white merino tops to use for spinning. First, though, we had to use some of these.
They're called carders and we used them to blend the deep blue and white tops together to make a paler blue which provided us with some good practice in using the carders! The tops had to be carded in portions called staples which are no longer than a finger length and then formed into rolags (rolls). Spinning then commenced and the first thing was to get used to the treadle so that the wheel spun at just the right speed. We had to concentrate on regulating it with our own heartbeats so that we got into a rhythm which, personally, I found very relaxing.
Sue then commenced to demonstrate the art of spinning and, believe me, it is an art! We had one-to-one tuition from both Sue and Bill. We learnt to pinch the yarn to control where the twisting stopped and, with the other hand, pull out the fibres bit by bit. We learnt a kind of mantra like thing to get into the rhythm of it - something like pinch, pull out, let go, move on; pinch, pull out, let go, move on; pinch, pull out, let go, move on .....
We had to concentrate on not letting the twist go beyond the point where we were pinching or the fibres would then be very difficult to pull out. After spinning our blue/white blend, I then went on to spin some white merino on its own (DH was still spinning the blue/white) and we then plied. DH made two plies of the blend whilst I plied the blend and the white together which, considering also the differences in our blending, explains why DH's is bluer! We used the niddy noddy to wind the fruits of our labours into hanks following which they were washed. We laid them on the dashboard for the drive back and by the time we got home they were dry.
We also brought a bag of goodies home being a couple of books on spinning (one written by Sue), a copy of The Wheel magazine and a catalogue of spinning wheels, looms, etc.
DH seems to have enjoyed it just as much I did. Mmm ..... I can see a spinning wheel coming to stay with us soon .....