Saturday, 28 September 2013

Spinning in Abruzzo

This month my spinning travels have taken me to Abruzzo, a beautiful mountainous region of central Italy, where my workshops were hosted by Antonella Marinelli (I Campi di Mais).
I flew to Rome and then travelled by train and coach to L'Aquila, where Antonella met me. Despite the terrible damage still evident from the 2009 earthquake some of the important monuments are still standing
The fountain of 99 water spouts, representing 99 paese of L'Aquila

The duomo of Collemagno - the stonework inspiring some stranded colourwork knitting

Antonella drove us up and across the Altapianura delle Rocche, then up again to the small village of Ovindoli, 1400 metres above sea level, where she has her workshop
Antonella's workshop - I Campi di Mais

 I stayed in the welcoming B&B Abruzzo, just the other side of the piazza from I Campi di Mais.
Next day Antonella took me on a tour of some of the characteristic old hill villages nearby. First we went to Santo Stefano di Sessanio

 We had the obligatory gelato (ricotta and pear, yummmm!) while wandering the narrow winding alleys

I'm definitely going to copy this sign, maybe adding in a spinning wheel, for my POP-UP STUDIO starting next month (watch this space!!)
We visited the Bottega Artigiana La Buscella, where I couldn't resist buying some lovely big hand made wooden buttons. Then we came across this:
Probably a bobbin-winder rather than a spinning wheel, hand cranked and heavy
And beside it a sign reading Tisaneria. Always ready for a cuppa, we followed the sign and found this:

Not just a huge selection of herbal tisane, and delicious home-made apple cake, but a weaving workshop. We had an interesting chat with the owner, who runs weaving classes and also sells the tiny brown lentils special to the area.
Leaving Santo Stefano we headed to Rocca Calascio, stopping to admire the flowery roadside verges, pick some scented helichrysum and look at the stupendous views

Rocca Calascio is dominated by its castle, up on the peak above the village

Much of the village is deserted, but very atmospheric
We had a delicious lunch in the Rifugio della Rocca, baked scamorza cheese with mushrooms, and a salad
Our next stop was to visit Valeria Gallese, who with her husband runs AquiLana - wool from their own flock of sheep is processed into a range of lovely yarns. Valeria kindly provided the fleece for our workshops.
Then back to Ovindoli, where the first of the workshop particpants had just arrived - Patrizia. Once she was settled in to the B&B we had an unhurried picnic style dinner and a good long chat.

Saturday was Day 1 of the workshop. Eleonora arrived with her little dog, and we soon got to grips with grading and then carding the AquiLana fleece.
 Patrizia and Antonella
Eleonora and Patrizia
Being partly Merino the fleece form Valeria was very fine but a bit sticky, so we also used some Zwartbles fleece (black) from Perthshire, some Alpaca from Aberdeenshire and some fibre from Patrizia's own alpacas and angora goats in the Veneto.
At lunchtime we took a table outside into the sunshine
and continued to work out there for the afternoon, much to the interest of passers-by

 An afternoon of drop-spindle spinning and plying, and everyone had produced their first skein of 2-ply yarn

After a bit more carding we went in search of dinner, at a restaurant in the piazza.
On Sunday it was time to meet the spinning wheels - Patrizia's new Ashford Kiwi 2 and my (but now Antonella's) slightly older Kiwi 1. Alternately spinning and carding, the morning passed quickly and lunchtime was announced by the sound of Eleonora's fiancé arriving on his motorbike, bringing lunch.
Once again we ate outside in the sunshine, a delicious spread with Antonella's home-made bread and home grown artichokes and spinach, Patrizia's home grown tomatoes, mozzarella brought by Nico and a delicious spread made in Eleonora's azienda from garlic flowers, olive oil and wine - also all home grown.
After lunch the spinning wheels came out into the sunshine, again attracting lots of attention - or maybe it was Nico's Ducati parked next to them

Patrizia spinning her mohair/alpaca blend, wearing a hat made by Antonella
By late afternoon the ladies all had completed a second skein of wheel-spun 2-ply yarn
and also prepared and spun silk hankies,
Everyone said they were very satisfied with what they had achieved, they certainly got a lot done in two days, while still finding time for lots of good conversation and laughter.
I really enjoyed my first visit to Abruzzo, and hope to return there. The icing on the cake came when just before heading back to L'Aquila and the coach to Rome, Antonella took me to a small antique shop in Ovindoli. It is an absolute Aladdin's cave, piled high with treasures, many of which are Scandinavian as the owner is a Danish woman.
Hanging beside the stairs I found a narrow wooden heddle, probably from 1850 or earlier and made as an engagement gift as it has a heart motif. There are still traces of red paint on one side and blue/green on the other. I carried it home very carefully!


  1. Ciao Deborah, mi sembra sia stata un'esperienza molto piacevole, dal pochissimo che capisco d'inglese, ma le foto parlano chiaro. I miei vasi di lana che si stanno tingendo sono aumentati lasciando intravedere bellissime colorazioni.....alcuni erano pronti e li ho già filati. Un caro abbraccio Loredana.

  2. Grazie Deborah, anche per me sono stati giorni piacevolissimi, spero con tuutto il cuore di replicare l'anno prossimo.
    A presto e buon divertimento alle Shetland :)