Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Perfect Weather - for spinning outdoors

I've been enjoying the recent lovely summer weather spinning at a couple of local events - the Ardoch Agricultural Show at Braco last Saturday (above), and the Lochearnhead Highland Games the weekend before (below). Both days I was really glad to be able to keep cool in the shade (but I do think spinning in sunglasses looks funny!)
Both are very traditional Scottish events, a really good day out and I enjoyed meeting and chatting to lots of interesting (and interested) people about spinning, dyeing, feltmaking and knitting. People came from far and wide - the top photo was taken by Nancy from San Antonio, USA.
One thing that has attracted a lot of attention is my 'library' of natural dyed handspun yarn samples

You can see that I took different spinning wheels - I like to give them all a good 'run' from time to time and spinning for six or seven hours straight is a good opportunity.
The wheels in the photos are Ashford Traditionals, both at least 35 years old. The dark coloured one (top photo and below) is one I've just acquired and reconditioned - now it is running beautifully and looking for a new home. let me know if you are interested. Hamish clearly is! I'll post details under the Equipment tab.
Here are the yarns I was spinning at the two events
from left to right: Zwartbles (a local fleece which was still running around in the field three weeks ago!)
Italian Bose wool dyed with Beetroot
Blue Texel - another local fleece
Shetland wool dyed with Kool Aid
.... I did the plying at home, it's not so interesting for people to watch.

My next outing will be to the Aberfeldy Highland Games on the 10th August, then the Strathardle Gathering on the 24th, and finally the Blairgowrie Games on September 8th. If you can get along to any of these come and say hello (and even if you can't, wish for good weather!!)

Friday, 19 July 2013

Shetland Wool Week - I can't wait!

I'm getting excited about going back to Shetland in October!!

Andy Ross, who will host my workshops during Shetland Wool Week, has just posted a blog entry about the workshops, where he includes some helpful links about travel and accommodation

The first two workshops are on Monday 7th and Tuesday 8th October in Yell - really easy to get to from the main town of Lerwick. And once you are in Yell, its only a hop skip and short ferry ride to Unst, where the Heritage Centre has a fantastic collection of knitwear and spinning, well worth a visit.

I strongly believe that these beginners' workshops are the most important stage of learning to spin. Learning about the materials and equipment we use, the best way to do each stage of the process, and why each step is important, gives you a good foundation on which to develop your own style of spinning and creativity. The two workshops taken together are the very best start I can give you on your spinning journey. They are also great fun, as people discover new things together, share laughs and stories and often develop lasting friendships.

During the Monday workshop in Yell we will learn about different types of fleece, different breeds of sheep and other fibres. Using a lovely Shetland fleece (of course) I will show you how to grade the wool into different qualities. I will explain the differences between woollen and worsted yarns and teach you how to card and comb the wool to prepare it for spinning. In the afternoon you will learn to spin your prepared wool using a drop-spindle, and how (and why) to ply to yarns together. At the end of a busy (but fun) day you will have produced a small skein of your very own 2-ply handspun yarn.

Tuesday's workshop (also in Yell) is where beginners can learn how to spin using a spinning wheel, and more experienced spinners can learn a variety of techniques to get the best from their wheel. If you have already learned to spin with a drop-spindle (maybe at Monday's workshop) this will be a great help, as the way you handle the fibre is just the same. We will discus different types of spinning wheels and how to look after them while you are spinning and plying lovely Shetland wool into yarn, and learning how to finish off your yarn ready for knitting or weaving. I'll also tell you how you can plan and design your yarns so that you can produce exactly the right type of yarn for any project you have in mind.

On Wednesday 8th October the Art Yarns workshop will be in Lerwick, in the wonderful Shetland Museum - which also has a fantastic textile collection that can occupy a whole rainy day (yes, I've done that!!). Creating your own yarn is a great way of expressing your creativity, and we will explore lots of different ways of combining colour, texture and structure in yarn. I often use images from nature as inspirational stating points, and I will bring some along. but if you want to bring your own sources of inspiration that would be great. We'll have lots of different fibres and colours to play with and the day will pass really quickly. While we're playing and creating I'll explain some of the factors that we need to bear in mind to ensure that our yarn is not only beautiful but also functional and fit for purpose. You will take away your own completely unique yarn, and maybe some fibre that you have prepared to spin at home.

If you would like to know more about the workshops, or about getting to Yell, drop me an e-mail at
Workshop places must be booked through shetlandboxoffice
I do hope you will join us on a woolly adventure!