Spinning a Yarn – Part 1

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I’d like to introduce you to my ‘friend’ Buttercup.  Isn’t she beautiful?

She’s an Ashford Single Drive Traditional Wheel and according to the Ashord Website she’s robust, versatile, easy to understand and simple to operate.

None of which even comes close to describing how I feel about her.

I expect you can probably feel my complete l♥ve for Buttercup, exuding through your screen right now if you concentrate.

It hasn’t always been this way.  Buttercup and I have had a very turbulent past.

Despite living together for a good number of years now, Buttercup and I have spent the majority of that time ignoring each other.  She very rarely budged from her seat on the landing window, except maybe for a quick wash, or if I was feeling particularly uncaring, maybe just a wipe over with the duster.

Things however, have changed.

Buttercup came down off her perch a couple of months ago and with dogged determination I took her in hand and attempted to spin once again, with the help of various different books, websites and Youtube videos.

My first results we’re completely useless, despite my best efforts ;-(

Then I had a light bulb moment and remembering that I’d stashed some ‘oh so pretty silk and merino fibre’ somewhere that I’d bought in the year dot, I went a rummaging.

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The resulting ball of yarn is a complete shambles.  It’s over spun whilst being under spun and just generally awful, but I love it!

Spurred on to create more yarn (as if I need it?), I set out to find someone to make sure I was at least on the right track.

Enter Nancy Devlin…..


Nancy pictured here, in her Viking garb (she’s into living history, totally fascinating, more to come in another post),  is a fibre fanatic too and the proud owner of several different spinning wheels.

Nancy and her husband Paul, are based in Co. Leitrim, which is a bit of a distance from where I am in Co. Waterford.  So I arranged an overnight visit and Buttercup and I jumped into the car and drove the three and a half hours, stopping on the way at Belvedere House for a cuppa and a very generous helping of Pavlova.

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Nancy has recently started to offer workshops in lots of different fibre crafts including drop spindle spinning, tablet weaving and knitting and having spoken to Nancy over the phone, I knew we were like minded people and were going to get along famously.

A visit to Nancy and Paul’s house could leave you in no doubt of how much they enjoy making things.  The shelves of the kitchen are stacked with pots of home-made jams and jelly’s and the smell of fresh baked bread wafts around the house.  The walls are bedecked in woven wall hangings and the sofas are adorned with crochet rugs.  When I arrived Nancy was busy making traditional furniture polish, with wax from the bees Paul keeps and turpentine.

That evening I even tagged along to move a hive with Paul.  Fetching don’t you think?  Personally, I think I look like Wallace from Wallace and Grommit in this photograph – flattering it is not, but we’re all friends here aren’t we?

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I digress.

Nancy knew I was keen to learn as much as possible during my time with her,  so we tried to cram as much in as possible. We started at the beginning, examining fleeces and comparing a well kept fleece to one that had been stored in pretty dire conditions.  Those of a weaker constitution might have had to leave the room at this point, but it’s important to know what your looking for, if you’re going to be buying a fleece direct from the farmer.

We then got stuck in with our arms deep in water up to the elbows, as I learnt how easy it is to wash a fleece.  Thankfully it was more a case of submerging the fleece and leaving it to soak in the water, rather than the battle I’d envisaged when Nancy first suggested it.  The whole process took a number of hours and I was really quite surprised how clean the fleece came up, after only a couple of rinses.

Whilst we left the fleece to soak, we moved onto learning how to card fleece using a drum carder, by feeding in the fibres and turning the handle to rotate the drum.

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A far less labour intensive method of carding than using the hand held carders, I can assure you.

I had a play with cleaned fibres and fibres from a fleece in the grease (unwashed).  The carded fibre in the photo below are a combination of merino and fleece in the grease.

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Once I’d got the hang of using the drum carder, I had a play with a drop spindle and some fibre.  I have a couple of them myself at home and I can spin this way, but I’m rather un-coordinated to say the least.  Starting with a drop spindle, is a great way to get the hang of drafting your fibre.

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If you’d like to know more about spinning with a drop spindle there are lots of really helpful resources in the form of books, tutorials and Youtube videos, but if you go to a workshop with someone like Nancy, you’re going to learn their tips and tricks.

I had been enjoying myself no end but everything was moving me towards having to spend some time with Buttercup.  Unconvinced as I was, that Buttercup and I would be able to mend our relationship, I’d decided to see how some of Nancy’s other wheels and I got along first.

A little bit like speed dating I guess.  So I sat down opposite……

I think that’s enough for now don’t you?

You’ll have to wait for Spinning a Yarn – part 2 to see what happened next.

I’m off to have a spot of breakfast before catching up on the latest episode of The Great British Bake Off and finishing off a sock I’ve been knitting.

Happy Saturday!

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4 thoughts on “Spinning a Yarn – Part 1

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