A Special Retreat and Some Sheep

Ryeland Sheep & Fleece
Ryelands are one of the oldest British sheep breeds and have been in the UK for hundreds of years.  Their legs are covered in fleece as well as their bodies, which along with their cute noses, gives them the distinctive ‘teddy’ appearance.  They are great mothers, good for both fleece and meat and rarely suffer from foot problems.  They can have either coloured or white fleece.  Wow!
The wool is great for spinning or needle felt.  it has a rather unique ‘crispy feel to it without being at all scratchy and will not pill or felt easily when made into knitwear.

One of Jacqueline Bonner’s Ryeland sheep

The Best Wool for the Job

I think that imported Merino is over rated as a spinning fibre, although its availability in as coloured tops makes it a good choice for UK based feltmakers who do not want to work specifically with indigenous fleece.   If you live in a country that produces it in larger quantities such as Australia or New Zealand, it is a good choice for you of course.    And there are breeders this side of the Pond of UK version of the breed, called Bowmont.  Although Merino type wool is soft it is prone to felting, hence its popularity with felt makers.  it is lovely for babywear if the parents don’t mind handwashing.  But Ryeland is a good all rounder and I love its ancient roots as a breed.

An Exciting New Retreat for Textile businesses

Janet has launched her very first Retreat specifically for those with a yarn, fibre or fibre animal business.  She has provided 1-1 mentoring for many years and this is something she is really excited about.   The Retreat will take place at the same amazing venue as the Create With Fibre knitting and spinning retreats.  So the views, food, wine, woodburning stove and time to spin, knit or crochet will all be there.  At the same time, we will talk about the business dilemmas and plans we have.  There will be 1-1 time with Janet and also a chance to actually get down to the nitty gritty and do some work on those plans.  Together we are stronger!

Spindling Changes the World…

Spindling is a game changer if you are a textile artist, spinner or yarn enthusiast.    The reasons are this:

It is portable.  So although it may be slower by the hour than wheel spinning, (although more about that later, it is actually faster than you think) it is faster by the week.  whilst your friends chat at the spinning group they have to get up and leave their spinning wheel.  You on the other hand can wander about and take your spinning with you.

Many moons ago, I was taught spindling, backstrap weaving and Andean Braiding by a Canadian called Ed Franquemont.  He is the father of Abby Franquemont, who is still spindling away and whom many of you will have heard of.    Ed was a spindler through and through.

At one point, he and others fundraised to buy spinning wheels for the community they were working with.   They returned there a year later to find no one was using the spinning wheels but were back to handspindles.   Why?  the spindles were ‘slower by the hour, faster by the week’.   You could spindle whilst doing other things.   You produced more and were not stuck at home on your own.   And that is the essence of spindling.

Sadly, Ed is no longer with us but the time I spent learning with him will always be special.  He was also an archaeologist and worked with communities in Peru.  He gave me one of the Peruvian spindles made  in a community he worked with.  I still have it and treasure it greatly.

Being a keen spindler, I often spin a lot of yarn whilst on holiday, wating for trains, cooking, you name it.  These  Entrelac socks are made with spindle spun Blue Faced Leicester yarn.    The toe, heel and strip around the ankle are made from commercial sock yarn (pink in photo).   Partly to add durability but partly just because it needed using up.

Spindle spun entrelac socks

The thigh roll, the kick and the wrist distaff

These amazing techniques are what make it possible to really get up speed on a hand spindle.   There is a myth that you need a special gadget in order to kick a spindle.  Well you heard it here, all you need is a pair of sensible shoes.

Simply grip the spindle between your feet at the widest point and flick the right foot back to kick the spindle clockwise.   I do lots of free videos in our lovely Facebook group, Create With Fibre Community.  Check out the spindling one here.    You will have to join the group in order to access the videos, then click on the videos tab to see them all, or do a ‘search in group’ with the word ‘video’.

Using a wrist distaff

And here is a FREE excerpt about spindling from Janet’s book.  

A summary – some tips for spindle spinning

  • Practise pre-drafting fibre and then twirling the spindle with a piece of scrap yarn. Do each of step until you are confident before attempting the next one.
  • If you struggle to join on the fibre, just tie a piece of yarn onto the spindle and tie this around a small amount of fibre, or make a loop, thread a small amount of fibre through it and double it back on itself. This can be done at any stage not just when joining fibre to start a new bobbin.
  • Take your time. Pre-draft the fibre then spin the spindle to insert the twist.  Then stop, sit down and wedge the spindle between your knees and draft some more rather than doing everything at once.
  • If you get in a muddle or the spindle is spinning too fast for you, stop by lowering the spindle onto the floor. This will give you time to draft without the spindle spinning.
  • If the yarn is getting over-twisted it is important to stop immediately or it will just get worse.
  • To ply, wind two lots of singles yarn into a double stranded ball. Put this in your pocket and then ply from it.
  • Remember to go clockwise when spinning and anticlockwise when plying.
  • Refer to the section on plying yarn on a spinning wheel for some extra tips.

You can check out the book some more on the Create With Fibre website, and can also find out about Janet’s courses and retreats there.

Busy busy spin spin…

Hot news! Lee (illustrious and darling Hubby) is now making blending boards. In our humble opinion many more expensive ones are overly fancy for the job they do. Ours are simpler and therefore cheaper.

People tried mine and they wanted one. I still don’t have one, because every time he makes me another, someone buys it.

So as of yesterday, the garage is his workshop. And blending boards are officially for sale at £69 including postage. There may be a wait of a week or two as he has been very busy.

Watch this space for our weaving frames, two piece and hence easy to store scarf looms and other products soon.

    Blending board

Spinning and Weaving Courses Chez Nous

One of the things I love to do most is have people to visit.  We live in a plain wee street in a lovely bungalow in a simple Ayrshire village.  Our back garden is a real surprise, as we grow a lot of veg in a relatively small space and are actually WWOOF hosts too.  (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms).

Simple living has always been a part of what we do and we decided years ago that living in a village was more sustainable and a better life than being in the hills (as we were previously).   So we have a modern, well insulated bungalow, solar panels, a wood burning stove, grow veg and live in a place with three buses an hour, people around during the day and hills in every direction.  Yes, we still have the hills.  You can set off and walk in any direction from here.

So it makes perfect sense to have ‘cosy courses’ in our living room.  People love them and the numbers are smaller – often 3 or 4 people but certainly no more than 5, depending on what it is.   Hubby makes soup for us and we eat around the kitchen table.

The most recent course was a ‘flexible’ two day spinning course.   Beginners on day one and improvers on day two.  You could book for one or both days, and all levels except complete beginners can come to day two.

Local accommodation is available and we also have a spare room where you are welcome to stay.  You can have a wee peek at our house here we are air bnb hosts.

Oh and we also do one to one tuition, anything from half a day to two days and stay the night!  Your very own micro retreat chez nous, in other words.

To see the current course list, visit Create With Fibre.

Victoria on a one to one spindling lesson

Workshop in a field

Lovely to see everyone and there is nothing like spinning outdoors. All so relaxed.  Haddington Spinners are a hardy lot and camped in Angela’s horse field whilst I had a lovely comfy bed in her spare room.

the Haddington Spinners workshop
Staying with Angela, Bill and dog Kai at Longniddry