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Saturday, 12 February 2011

Spinning A Yarn - or attempting to on an Ashford Student Drop Spindle

Spinning a Yarn (Or attempting to!)October half term holiday was eagerly awaited by myself this year, as my very good friend for almost twenty years, was expecting twins. I went to University with Lucy and am sure I wouldn’t have made it through my four year B’Ed degree without her. We don’t catch up nearly as much as I would like. She lives in a small medieval Somerset town. Near to Cheddar. I optimistically arranged a four day 'break' in Cheddar with my two sons and my energetic dog.  To my relief (and more so their Mother’s!) ‘The twins’ were dutifully born by half term and were just over two weeks old when I had the pleasure of meeting them.

Searching the internet prior to my travels I noticed ‘The Glastonbury Spinners’ would be giving a half term demonstration at ‘The Museum of Rural Life’, Abbey Farm, Glastonbury, Somerset. I love all things Glastonbury and visit my ‘Mecca’ as often as I can. I made a mental note to go and see what they were up to. I had also spotted ‘Spinning Weal’ online, a shop selling spinning supplies in Clevedon,  This seemed like a much better break from the M5 than the usual service stations.
I was so impressed with ‘The Spinning Weal’. It is a crafters heaven. Literally large sweetie jars lined up on shelves with beautiful colours and fibres. 20g – 500g carded and blended plaits of fibres, silks, plant fibres and synthetics hang from hooks in the window. Spinning wheels, looms, books, dyes and spindles. It is the equivalent of Charlie’s Chocolate factory for spinners, weavers and dyers. They also run courses and lessons in the following crafts and are fully stocked in these areas.
§ Dressmaking
§ Embroidery
§ Feltmaking
§ Knitting & Crochet
§ Quilting
§ Doll making
§ Spinning
The shop sells much more than the online store would have you believe and it was really inspiring to have a craft shop overwhelm me, rather than underwhelm me, as many do. I had to visit it on the way home too, I couldn’t resist. It is also on the same road as a fantastic cake shop! A short drive from the shop is the seafront complete with a Victorian pier.
On my first trip I treated myself to an Ashford Student spindle,

Some beautiful blended Merino and silk (Aquarius).

I also brought My Mom 500g of Blue Face Leicester called 'Humbug'.

I was even impressed with the cotton bag that my goodies went in. The plaits of fibre are tied with pretty ribbons with handwritten labels. I love this attention to detail, lacking in the world of the mass produced, it makes you really feel like you are having a treat.
When I arrived in cheddar and unpacked the car I trod on something and heard a nasty ‘crack!’ My sons found it hilarious that I had snapped my ‘spinning thingy!’ My oldest son did sense my bitter disappointment and went and bought a tube of Super Glue, bless him. I fixed my spindle and with the beautiful Aquamarine Merino and silk got completely engrossed for an hour achieving absolutely nothing! So I had to make do with my knitting, making ‘No.1’ son a chunky ‘Beanie’ hat. I only had to wait a couple of days and I would make my acquaintance with ‘The Glastonbury Spinners’.
I was really pleased to find four spinners whirring away in a quiet corner of the ‘parlor’ area of the museum. (What a gorgeous meeting place) They meet alternate Wednesdays at the museum and every half term holiday to give demonstrations. They were very friendly and I sat down straight away presenting them with my newly acquired and freshly super glued spindle, much to their amusement. They were more than happy to put me on the right track. My spindle was in fact a Top whorl, no wonder it didn’t like it when I tried to spin with it upside down! The spinners also admired my beautiful Merino and silk but recommended natural fleece to learn spindling as the silk made the fibre quite slippery for my novice hand. They kindly donated some ‘Coloured Ryeland’ fleece, not tied up in pretty ribbon and with quite an authentic aroma about it.

It was in need of some hearty carding. I enjoyed my spindling demonstration but I did not understand the explanation I was given for plying, I did ask for the explanation to be repeated but was too ashamed of my ignorance to ask for a third explanation. I don’t think the penny was going to drop with explanation alone. I decided I would be patient and attempt some singles, then make a nuisance of myself at a WSD Guild meeting back at home. The Glastonbury Spinners recommended the online WSD guild to me and it does sound like fun, one of the spinners was currently organizing a festive work swap where fifty hand crafted scarves will exchange hands in time for Christmas.
My first year with The Birmingham Guild has been great fun. I blame it for my growing obsessions and my growing mountain of unfinished projects and look forward to many more to come.  I wonder does the Guild provide hardship loans for fibre addicts or am I asking too much?
(This Article was written for WSD December Newsletter)

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