Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Learning to spin wool


It is not enough to say that hand-spinning is one of the industries to be revived. It is necessary to insist that it is the central industry that must engage our attention if we are to re-establish the village home.”  
Gandhi Young India 1926

I’d like to dedicate this blog to our friend Val who is enduring some pretty nasty treatment for breast cancer at the moment.  We’ve finally got around to spinning some wool and it’s on an Ashford wheel that Val kindly gave us a while ago.

We liked the idea of spinning our own wool but we didn’t know how and, being busy people, we’d only flirted with trying to find someone locally to teach us.  Serendipitously, one of our latest volunteers is a competent spinner and turned up well equipped to teach Gabrielle, with her two wheels, along with a lazy Kate and a niddy noddy.  
Sue teaching Gabrielle how to spin
We started the morning making sausages, then Andrew and I went off to our woodland to construct a bridge out of reclaimed timber (see next blog) leaving Sue to teach Gabrielle how to spin.   

While pedalling gently, carded wool is teased into a hole and magically twisted into a thread, which is wound onto a bobbin.  With two bobbins full and mounted on the lazy Kate, the spinning wheel is turned in the opposite direction to ply the two threads together, the wool being wound onto a third bobbin.  The wool is then taken off the bobbin and wound onto the niddy noddy giving a lovely skein of wool. 

Until I emigrated to France, just 6 ½ years ago, I was a townie, 
Gabrielle learns to spin
a city dweller, un citadin.  Woolly jumpers (more likely a polar fleece) and cuts of meat were something I went to the shops to buy.  Now, we home rear practically all the meat we eat but, apart from a very rustic Russian-style hat that Gabrielle made me out of felt and rabbit skins, we still buy clothes.  Can I now report to you that, in searching for independence and self-sufficiency along Swadedeshi lines, we’ve taken up our charkha and are going to start spinning our own clothes ?

Fashion fan Christina
Uh … No !  At least not anytime soon but Gabrielle is now inspired to carry on learning.  Which is just as well for her daughter, who, might now have a vested (woolly vest?) interest in Gabrielle producing homespun woollen clothing.  Christina, who admits to being a “fast fashion addict”, recently watched a (UK) television programme, Channel 4 Dispatches: Fashion’s Dirty Secret, and was horrified to see that sweat shops are alive and kicking and right under her nose in London’s east end.  She’s written a very frank and self-aware blog wherein, realising her complicity as customer, has decided to pledge to “not buy any fast-fashion, or non-ethical clothing for a year.”  

She’s set herself these rules:
·      I must not buy ANYTHING that is not second hand or ethically made (so I don't have to give up shopping all together)
·      I will research and investigate ethical fashion brands and alternatives to the high street.
·      I will not accept the normal 'we are working towards better conditions' excuses from big brands when it comes to sweatshops.  If there is any doubt that anything is made those conditions I will not go anywhere near it.
·      I am allowed to keep and wear all of the high street clothes I have amassed up until this point (obviously!)

Niddy-noddied into a passable skein of wool

She’ll will be posting regular updates of her “struggle” as well as profiling ethical brands and ideas on her blog.  I’m sure that Gandhi would approve of Gabrielle’s and Christina’s efforts.

4 comments :

Vera said...

I am with you in spinning endeavours. Sheep shearing for the first time delivered a pile of fleeces I didn't know what to do with. So I have learnt to spin using a Kromski spinning wheel. Now all I have to do is find something to make with skeins of wool I have in my stash! Will watch your blog with interest to see what ideas you come up with!

Christina Sanders said...

Thanks for the link!

I was thinking of asking nannie to knit me something, maybe for next autumn now that i can't buy my knit-wear in Topshop!
Maybe mum could make me something now too!

C x

Stephanie said...

I'm new to spinning as well. Your skein of wool looks excellent. I'm not quite that standard yet! Aiming towards meat and veg self sufficiency ourselves so will be reading with you with interest from now on.
Good luck!
Steph

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Thanks for all you comments.

Vera, have you any pics of your wool on your blog.

Christina, you'll have to wait a while as I fear our current product is way to rustic for your fashion sensibilities.

Stephanie, I see you've got alpacas. How do you shear them?