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Frances spinningFrances Green. the spinning wheel
'The Hand Spinning Lady' in Morayshire.

farmer and sheepI first started to spin almost 40 years ago, when I first came up to live in Scotland, the land of my forefathers. ( My foremothers having originated on the West Coast of Ireland)

I had been living a very 'self-sufficient' lifestyle for many years previous to this in a small four hundred-year-old cottage with almost an acre of good land in rural Lincolnshire.

This was the time of the self-sufficiency movement, when required reading was; Self-Sufficiency & The Fat of The Land by John & Sally Seymour.  Cottage Economy by Cobett and 'Small is Beautiful' by Schumacher. I wrote articles myself about self-sufficiency and reviving rural crafts, and at one point had a weekly column.sheep flock

There on our three quarters of an acre of good soil we grew most of our own vegetables, fruit and herbs, and kept a few chickens and geese.... The occasional pig for the table and a tiny herd of stall-fed goats (three) that I walked around the village lanes for grazing. We were certainly self-sufficient in milk products and were able to barter for much that we needed.

It was a lovely and satisfying lifestyle but very very hard work! Sheep we did not have, but I always wanted a spinning wheel and eventually when I came to live up in Scotland and suddenly had three acres I was given two Jacobs sheep who were called ‘sheepie sheepie one and sheepie sheepie two’ which was a wonderful experience because I learnt a great deal about sheep and how weather and diet affects their fleece, Early Spring Morning

I also learnt about the difficulties of shearing two full grown sheep with a small pair of hairdressing scissors! Exhausting ( for me!), but producing the two best-groomed sheep in the area for that year! Fortunately they were very friendly and laid-back sheep, so they didn't object to just ‘lying about’ while I clipped them....

I also acquired my first spinning wheel, which turned out to be more of an ornament than a working wheel!  Nevertheless, I taught myself to spin on it (more or less,) despite all its difficulties. Previous to making the move to Scotland I had collected quite a lot of fleece from barbed wire on the North Yorkshire Moors! Not particularly good to make into yarn, but excellent to practice and learn with. Portsoy Boat Festival 2013

Unfortunately moving to Scotland coincided with the deaths of both of my parents within five months of each other, and I think that at that time if I had not had the spinning to immerse myself in, I would've been a much sadder person! It was a terrible time, but during that time I made a mound of yarn, and would sit for hours from morning till night simply spinning....

I Poppy and wheelvery quickly became very adapt at the many forms of spinning, carding and creating beautiful yarn. Some years later being both fascinated and obsessed with the whole process of creating yarn directly from a sheep's fleece, and having increased my skills a good deal, I took my idea of teaching others to the Moray College in Elgin, and thus started  ‘Spinning and Wool-Work Evening Classes’ for two seasons which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Teaching others to spin is a great way of increasing your own knowledge and skills, and It was great fun! Since then I have run spinning workshops and feel that I should very much like to do so again in the 'Not too distant future'.

Spinning is a very soothing occupation, and I would recommend it for anyone who suffers from any sort of stress or distress as I did, with two provisos....

1. Never spin with a cat sitting on your knee, they do not take kindly to their whiskers being forcibly extracted, it can make them paranoid about spinning wheels! jumper and wool

2. If you have very long hair,  make sure it is fastened back. Having a chunk of your hair pulled out and disappearing into the yarn can be something of a rude awakening if you're in a nice meditative state! I can tell you it is impossible to undo it, it has to be cut off.  I am giving you this hint from my own experience!

For me it is lovely to take something totally basic, fleece straight from the sheep the fresher the better! And turn it with very little trouble into something that is usable. Even a small amount of yarn can be made into warm winter fingerless gloves which I often make, there is enormous satisfaction in doing this.jasper

After all, to make a pair of gloves in theory all you need is three pieces of doweling sharpened to a point at one end and a large fairly even round potato. How???

Push one of the pieces of doweling to the centre of the potato and you have a spindle.... When you have finished spinning and plying your wool on the spindle, you can use the other two sharpened pieces of stick to knit it with.... And in theory you could then use all three pieces of stick to help light a fire on which you could cook your potato for your lunch. How wonderfully simple... and pie in the sky!Finn

And so I sit and spin myself into old age, and I can't think of a lovelier occupation.

If you wish to learn to spin please get in touch with me, I can arrange a workshop with three or up to six people. I have four spinning wheels that are operational (and two very ancient ones that need mending when I can find a sympathetic wood turner to make parts for them)

If I am arranging spinning classes I will post the dates on this website so please keep it bookmarked.

              Happy spinning!      

 

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