I often wonder how people first get into fibre crafts. Whether they learned them from a family member or fell upon them quite by accident. For Alex and I, we discovered felting during lockdown, but as a young girl, I had the opportunity to try spinning in school. Our needlework teacher brought her spinning wheel in for one lesson, to show us how to spin fibre into wool. I was lucky enough to have a go, and I loved it. Sadly, it was a one-off lesson that was never to be repeated, but the love of creating wool from fibre is something that has stayed with me all my life. So having tried felting, and then moving on to weaving, the natural progression was to think about creating my own yarns to use in weaving. I started to search online for a wheel, not really knowing enough about them! I came across an advert for an ‘old traditional Welsh spinning wheel’. As it was local to me, I went to take a look at it and immediately fell in love with it. It was so pretty!!
I had done a little research, and knew to check that all the relevant parts were still attached, so when I looked at this one, I did a mental checklist and was satisfied that nothing seemed to be missing. The older couple who were selling it explained it had belonged to the lady’s great aunt, and she had inherited the wheel but never used it. In my head I though fab, I’ve found a little gem and decided to call her Angharad (a traditional old Welsh name). However, when I started to look at getting it to work I realised that there were some anomalies. For example, the footman seemed much too long and something seemed wrong with the way it connected to the wheel hub. Also, there was no sign of wear and tear anywhere, and I also realised another big mistake….there was no way I was ever going to spin art yarn on a flax wheel, even if I could get it to work! But I could still see the value in spinning other fibres, so set about trying to make it work. Eventually, I had to concede defeat and started looking for a different wheel. By this time, I’d learned a lot more about what I needed my wheel to do, and set my heart on an Ashford.
Social media is a great place to find little gems (as well as the not so good!). I eventually found an advert for an Ashford Traditional, that was built in the 1989/91 that was still unassembled in its original box! So, it was a vintage, but like brand new. The chap that was selling it (Bob Granger), was quite local and told me that he works out of Craig-y-Nos Country Park, and renovates spinning wheels!! So I seized the opportunity to tell him about my Welsh wheel, and he kindly offered to take a look at it for me!! I was so happy to have found someone with the skills and knowledge, who was only in the next county to where I live!!
When I arrived, I was in awe of both the location and Bob’s knowledge. Having purchased the new wheel, I left old Angharad with Bob, to see what miracles he could do to get her working. But what a fantastic place to work!! I was totally taken aback by the beautiful location of Craig-y-Nos… What a truly amazing work-life balance to have…
This is the view from Bob’s workshop!
Having taken my new Ashford home, I decided that I would call her Valerie after my late Mum. That way, every time I spin I will think of her. I couldn’t wait to start putting her together. I opened the box and checked nothing was missing, before I waxed all wooden pieces ready to assemble.
I couldn’t have found a ‘newer’ wheel second hand even if I tried!
It even still had the original packer’s details in the box! I wonder if she’s retired now…
Having assembled Valerie, I couldn’t wait to start spinning! I think I did a good job of the assembly.
Sadly, Bob and his friend tried their best with Angharad, but despite shortening the footman, shortening the flyer and fixing the metal part that connects the footman to the axle, it still wasn’t viable. To be honest, I don’t think it had ever been used!! It seems ironic that someone would go to the trouble of putting so much time and effort into making such a beautiful spinning wheel that would never work. The bobbin was fixed to the flyer – although it would spin, you can’t remove it and it’s so small, it would hold hardly any yarn! I now have to decide whether to keep the wheel for it’s beauty or whether to sell it on as an ornament! Pete is hoping that I will sell her as the house is fast being taken over by my hobbies!
This was my first attempt at spinning on Valerie. My friend and neighbour Debi was kind enough to give me some Corriedale fibre that she didn’t need, so this was my first go.
As you can see, it’s quite ‘chunky’!
But to be fair, as I want to use the yarn for weaving weft, I can still use it.
My next spin was a merino wool which I decided would look interesting plied with the corriedale.
I was quite pleased with the end result…
I tried some experimenting with the plying technique, to see whether I could make some interesting bobbly effects. It’s all a learning curve!
I think my next attempt was a lot neater. I used an art batt that I purchased, and tried my hand at making a thinner yarn this time…
Around this time, we went up north to visit Pete’s family. I decided to take my spindle, to practice my drafting. It worked really well in the car and it also gave me a chance to feed my new-found addiction to spinning! I think I managed to spin a much thinner yarn and it’s all practice isn’t it.
I’m still picking up the spindle in between spinning on Valerie, and it’s now nearly full!
I have purchased a lovely book to help me in my quest to learn spinning. I have to say, when it arrived, I was so impressed with it. I was lucky enough to buy an unused second-hand copy, and it’s like new. It kind of matches my purchase of Valerie. Both previously owned by someone who never used them. For a novice spinner like myself, I can honestly recommend this book by Sarah Anderson for its clear instructions with beautiful illustrations. But it’s equally good for experienced spinners who want to learn new yarn designs…
Here are some of my creations, I hope you like them!
I also invested in a cute little Niddy Noddy, to help me put my yarns into skeins. I opted for the type that can be taken apart and fits into one of my many fibre boxes (see Pete, I am trying to reduce the space my hobby is taking up in the house!!) I also bought the extension for it, so I can make 1 or 2 yard skeins. I got it from a great little Etsy shop called Hairy Dog Crafts and it works really well! I love the names on some of these shops!
Of course, no blog from us would be complete without the usual interfering cats. To say they are still as fascinated by wool fibre goes without saying but I have discovered that for Eccles, it also extends to pictures… here she is having taken over my book!
And Elliot had to make his usual blog appearance of course…
But sadly, the little man somehow managed to open a sealed plastic box to retrieve my yarn. I didn’t realise until I saw him acting ‘sheepishly’, and discovered my beautiful yarn under the dining room table looking more reminiscent of a birds nest than my lovely yarn!!!
I still can’t get over the fact he managed to open the box. He is one very clever cat. But I’m so glad I managed to save this other one before he managed to redesign it…
I still have a long way to go, but I’m enjoying the journey. Alex came over this week, and he had a try at the wheel. His little legs only just reached the treadle! I think it will take him a while to get the hang of coordinating his hands and his feet, but I can see great fun for him in the learning process and together, we can enjoy playing with new designs we make to weave.