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Leicestershire Show, Saturday 27 August 2016 August 25, 2016

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We’re spinning, show-n-telling, & selling  our handspun, hand-dyed, hand-made textiles at the show. New showground – details here. Prices from £2.50 to £165 or thereabouts. Always happy to talk about what we’re doing, how items are made.

To Cotesbach Woolly Market on Saturday 6 August August 4, 2016

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We’re going spinning & hopefully selling at  Cotesbach Educational Trust as part of their Wool Week. cotesbach

Spinning Season October 16, 2015

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Autumn has ripped leaves from the trees, and winter daylight is too weak to take the crunchy skin off puddles. Spinners are oiling their wheels and settling in for a sedentary season. Not less busy and certainly not less productive, because hour after hour, sitting treadling produces miles of fine yarns.

Although modern spinners don’t stick to sheeps’ wool alone, the spinning year still follows the traditional ways of the past: fleece, shorn in early summer are washed whilst there’s a chance of drying outside. They’re picked over to remove a year’s worth of burrs and thorns, and carded or combed ready for spinning. Outdoors in a breeze, knots waft away for birds to pick up. About then, most spinners would support bringing back child labour – these stages are boring and time-consuming, and don’t need real skill. And they’re keeping us from spinning.

Now, with most rooms in the house insulated by bags of clean, fluffy wool, spinners can settle in for the hypnotic, addictive yarn production.

Hypnotic, when you’re alone, spinning smooth consistent yarn. Easy to lose yourself in the rhythm and flow: treadle, feed to the bobbin, treadle, feed to the bobbin. Keep the speed and feed even, and the yarn comes out unvarying and unbroken, and your thoughts can go where they will: tomorrow’s shopping list, or more thorny problems. All resolve as the wheel turns steadily, and your creativity plays whilst the gatekeeper in your head watches the yarn oblivious. You can do it blindfold, feeling the fibre your backhand is drafting towards the wheel, feeling the twist with your front hand before you let it onto the bobbin. Treadle, feed to the bobbin.

Of course, with big families and small rooms, this is a luxury most spinsters did not enjoy a century ago. Today, we still get together to spin, as happened in the past.only then, to save on heat and candles, and to meet an urgent order, or just to put food on the table. We get together to spin socially – in guilds across the country.

We share meals and we share ideas – we’re not limited to functional homespun yarns for simple knitting and weaving, so colours and effects highlight the dismal light on a wintry day. No two projects will be the same in a meet of twenty plus spinners. There’s a lot to learn there, and not a single formal teacher – we pass the knowledge by word and feel and hand, just as it always happened.

Not many will have the same design of wheel either – although the basic mechanism is the same. A four-hundred-year –old spinner would still recognise and get a modern wheel working: treadle turns the bigger flywheel, which turns the smaller whorl faster; flyer spins round the bobbin, adding twist and winding on the yarn.

We might have the same type of wheel, but we rarely aspire to be as productive as spinsters in the past had to be. In medieval Coventry, a spinster would be expected to spin a 2 ½ pound fleece in a week. And walk miles with the spun yarn – to get paid and pick up the next fleece. All the young and adult women in a family would spin. As well as tending the vegetable garden, cooking and cleaning, and looking after kids. They would need to keep on top of it, especially if the man of the house was a weaver – it took twelve spinsters to keep one weaver in yarn.

Unlike the medieval spinners, we are free to choose our own fleece –sixty-plus breeds of British sheep give us permutations of fibre characteristics. So as evenings lengthen, we’ll be spinning long lustrous Wensleydale for a shaggy jacket, fine crimped Shetland for a traditional shawl, Piebald Jacob for a humbug-stripe pullover. On round the room, we’ll stop, and stroke, and slaver, and wonder if we can squeeze anything else into our stash. It’s satisfying to support smallholders, who are bringing back our rarer breeds, and as we treadle, we’ll be dreaming up our own queue of must-do projects.