Why do you knit?

I’ll bet it’s because you’re either a) being trendy and following fashion - the Duchess of Cambridge knits after all, or b) a grannie (yawn, not again), or – and I’m quoting here – c) lazy. Knitting is apparently art for lazy people, or so a particularly annoying piece of recent online journalism has assured us. And – hold the front page – did you know the ‘knitting revival’ (yawn #2) was ‘recent’ (yawn#3)? It is, apparently. Louise at KnitBritish has written a great response to this article, and I feel obliged – as a hack myself – to add my bit.

Look, knitting. Cool, I’m in tune with the zeitgeist!

cool!

I know, I know, I’ve had a rant about this relatively recently and have also been known to do so in the past (most recently on International Womens’ Day, when I banged on about the reaction of some of my ostensibly feminist friends), but hey. It can’t be said often enough: stereotypes are simplistic, and – especially when dragged out yet again and applied to knitting – they are also rubbish. Just as they are frequently repeated, we need to repeat our response. Ahem, back to the piece in question.

I can think of one thing that was lazy, and it’s not knitting.

Badly researched and just plain ignorant. And I’m not saying this because I’m a hacked-off hack; I can see how such a silly piece of space-filling happened. It’s self-reinforcing: writer proposes piece on knitting or staffer is asked to produce one, using the fact the the Duchess of Cambridge knits as what is called a ‘hook’. Staffer has a story count to meet. Nothing is said and then writer/staffer is presented with deadline/nasty reminder of story count, at the last minute. Potential author of piece then goes to t’interweb thingy and finds lots of other articles saying that knitting is for lazy trendsetting grannies. Writer rehashes said ‘information’, presents piece, editor (who has no knowledge of knitting) slaps it in. At some point a sub-editor (who also knows nothing of knitting) may have added the odd corny stereotype that was missed out by accident - I did have a sub once ‘correct’ a piece of mine to make it appear that Parisian markets were laden with quinces in spring. Wrong.

The problem really is that where once an incorrect silly story was just the next day’s chip wrapper – as, mind, were stunning pieces of journalism by such legends as James Cameron and John Pilger – now it lives forever on the web, perpetuating error and assumption and sloppiness as time-starved journos try and meet increasingly difficult targets. Now, of course, this somewhat sloppy piece lives on and will be referenced by the next person writing something on knitting. It should be possible to do something accurately, but it probably isn’t. Watchword? Well, it’s my old baby-hack training coming to the fore here: when somebody tells you something, no matter what the medium of communication, ask yourself why they’re telling you whatever it is. OK, I was advised to apply it to slimy local councillors but it’s equally valid as a general rule of life.

Louise has drawn attention to an antidote to all this twaddle: the #ANDknitting tag on twitter.

If you use twitter, check it out, and if you’re also a knitter who uses twitter, add your contribution. Louise tells you more about how it was started, but here are a few of the things people posting there do as well as knit (‘and knitting’, geddit?): historical researcher, professional singer, consultant, physician, mother of two, genetic epidemiologist, engineer, business owner, carer, landscape architect, wife and auntie, contract administrator…

In my own woolly groups – which carry on a centuries-old Welsh tradition, the noson gwau, and so much for ‘recent’we have, among many others, a couple of ex-social workers, teachers, someone who was in charge of outside broadcasts for regional TV, a violinist, a business owner or three, farmers and smallholders, a nurse, a grave-digger and a builder. All these people, apparently, are frail and don’t get out much, and none of them are male (this may come as a shock to the ones I’m pretty sure are men). Possibly, given that knitting needles are sharp and that circulars would make a good garrotte, ‘not getting out much’ is just as well.

I’d just like to add one thing…

Rumpelstiltskin

If you want to experience another truly irritating stereotype, take up spinning in public. Rumplebloodystiltskin has a lot to answer for. Pass me my pointy hat.

 

How to solve a stash problem

Well, I think WordPress are beginning to sort themselves out (I love being an unofficial beta tester, not), so let’s see… I think it’s confession time.

arrrghhhhMy stash is embarrassing. This is but a part of the whole; no fluff here, no spun yarn, no fleeces. And there’s even a substantial amount of actual yarn missing too – I tend to forget about what’s behind the sofa. So it’s worse than embarrassing, especially if you add my fabric stash. Eek! This came home to me yesterday; a friend is coming to stay (hiya!) and help me process a fleece, and I had to tell her that the spare room is, er, full. So I have committed myself to ensuring that it is significantly less full by mid-June. OK? OK? (I hope my stash is listening.) Radical action is needed.

Realistically, there’s some stuff in here I am not going to use, and there’s some which – on close examination – proved to be unusable. Charity shop for the 2kg of extra-fine cotton in a sludge colour that flatters no one, for instance, and bin for the rotten Yarnworks tweed I bought in another charity shop. (I must stop buying yarn in charity shops without testing it first. Um – I must stop buying yarn in charity shops. Or, indeed, anywhere.*)

IMG_7541I’ve been knitting up for a few months now, and I’m quite please with what I’ve managed  to use, bearing in mind that I have persistent hand problems. There’s a giant cardigan from a Norah Gaughan pattern, knitted in a whole heap of DK tweed, used double. That ate a lot of stash. And it’s lovely; I’ve been wearing it today as it suddenly got chilly.

I’ve made some fingerless gloves, but that didn’t diminish my stash of single skeins much. Predictably, I suppose. And I don’t knit socks (don’t get me going on why, I just don’t).

IMG_6993Better for the single skeins has been my ‘Hitchhiker’ production line, though I think I would now rather cut off my hands than knit another Hitchhiker. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely pattern and a really useful shawlette cum scarf, but by lord it is boring to knit. And I love garter stitch, too. I’ve got one on the needles right now but I feel the Void opening beneath me as I look at it. Guess it will get finished at some time. But I’m glad I knocked this one off; silk and baby camel. Yum.

Possibly the oldest item in my stash was a giant heap of purple mohair, bought on York market when I was a student even though I couldn’t knit at the time. I know, I know. But note the past tense: was. Because I’ve used it.

Um. This is confession time, after all. I’ve used a lot of it, not all of it – when I say ‘giant heap’ I mean ‘giant heap’. But I have used a significant amount. And I have the most gorgeous, warm, snuggly throw to show for it:

IMG_8652

It’s done with some bits and pieces of Colinette Giotto and some scraps of their Wigwam yarn, as well as some odd ends of a similar Louisa Harding cotton tape.

detail throwAs well, of course, as an unfeasibly large amount of purple mohair. And there’s more left, so another throw is going to happen. (Yes, there’s more Colinette, just in different colours. Son of Throw will incorporate shades of gold.) I love the contrasts in textures as well. And it’s a simple pattern – I did a border of K3 at the start and end of every row, then it’s simply yo, K4, sl 1, K2tog, psso, K4, yo, K1, repeat until your arm falls off, last repeat ends K3 instead of K1. Wrong side is just K3, p to last 3 sts, K3.

Of course, it does leave you with a vast number of ends to be woven in, but one of our Guild members showed me a trick, and I’ve now bought my own rug-making latch hook. Brilliant!

So what’s next?

alpacaWell, I’m actually using up some handspun, and making a cushion. Then there’s another shawl (you can never have too many shawls). About five Wonderwools ago I bought some naturally coloured 4-ply alpaca. I can’t manage 4-ply with my hands, so I’m going to double it up and knit a lovely shawl from the current edition of Interweave; I should have just enough, I hope, and it’s as soft as a dream. Shouldn’t take too long to knit.

Er, when I’ve finished my stash-busting stripy cardi. Honestly – my next resolution really should be not to have so many WiPs (works in progress), but I’ve a valid excuse for that. It helps my hands if I vary the thickness of the needles I use. No, really.

As for the rest, well this is what I say to those who criticise my stash** now:

ever the lady

I’m afraid that is indeed me (my Dad was a photography nut, but could only develop black and white in the kitchen). Always and ever the lady.

*I did it. The Red Cross Shop in Porthmadog had a huge quantity of pure wool Jaeger yarn in bins – brown, fawn, rose pink, blue, teal, cream. All apparently sound. And I walked away!

** Otherwise I will ‘mention’ stashes of wood which might come in handy. Not to mention motorbikes, dead and alive. And their parts. Everyone has a stash of something. I also do bowls (why?) and lipstick (looking for the perfect red, honest).

A clutch of Colinette (and an intermission of sorts)

Grr. I’ve been a bit slow putting up a post because WordPress (whom I normally love to bits) have suddenly decided to effectively use us as beta-testers for some changes to image editing. These are going down like a mafioso in cement overshoes sinking into the Hudson River, and are being reassessed – apparently – but in the meanwhile my pics are BIG. Or smaller but not consistent.

Think of this as an intermission, the woolly blogging equivalent of an interval in a 1960s cinema. Here comes the usherette, selling ice cream and cigarettes…

Colinette 1

Colinette yarns are comparatively close to me, and their sale room is a temptation. It’s a glorious riot of colour, and it’s easy to lose your head. But I always try and hang on to mine, because I have an ambivalent relationship with Colinette. I’ve tussled with their patterns, wrestled with the sudden appearance of knots in a length of yarn, washed my hands obsessively as they became deep blue with indigo (that was the yarn above, Prism). Grr.

But I still weaken, and my friends know this too. So when a couple of them saw some Point 5 in a charity shop (!!!), they grabbed it:

Colinette 2

and I made a throw out of it. Love the variability, love the colours.

Of course… once a Goth, always a Goth. Even in the face of Colinette’s sale room, I can be relied upon to find something black. Ish.

Colinette 3

but again, love those colours sneaking in. This is their merino double knit, Cadenza. Sooo soft.

I do, however, have an exception when it comes to colour – I would quite happily buy every skein of Giotto that they do. It’s shimmery with rayon, muted with cotton and altogether wonderful and I love it.

Colinette4

Yum. Even when it fades, as this scarf has. Possibly because it’s been worn so much, rather than been kept in the dark, as it obviously should have been. Silly me. But I still love Giotto.

(Er, except in the form of a drape-front cardigan I knitted. Not the yarn’s fault – let’s just say that as a descendant of what my father called ‘the old dark people of the West’, drape fronts are not really my thing. We may have been old, we may have been dark, we may now live or come from the West, but we are also, generally – and I certainly am specifically - short.)

Right, now I must get back to pestering WordPress. If I’d wanted to turn the clock back I’d have gone to –––– hmm. Let’s just say ‘elsewhere’. Where I may end up moving. Noooo…

From the mill, to the stash – to the needles

A couple of posts ago I wrote about my habit of mill-visiting. There’s often an exciting opportunity for unusual stash enhancement when you visit a mill, and I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t give in. Mill shops – sometimes away from the actual mill itself – can be interesting. I don’t mean giant outlets, selling all sorts of stuff unconnected to the activity of the mill, the local area or indeed the country. I mean a specific mill’s outlet, possibly somewhere more visitable than a glorified shed up a single-track road, selling the products of that particular mill. OK, there’ll be blankets, toy sheep and sheepskin slippers, but somewhere, maybe at the back, maybe round a corner, there will be wool.

A classic example from years ago was the Hunters of Brora shop in Brora itself, which used to be by the station. It was fab, especially in its later incarnation, and had – I think I’m remembering correctly – a whole wall of cones of wool. I bought two, one brown tweedy, one grey tweedy, both Aran weight. That was in 1998, and I’m still using them.

Sutherland1859Hunters closed eleven years ago. It was originally started in Wick (Caithness) in 1901, but moved down the coast a little to Brora, where it was based until 2003. Brora is a small town on the east coast of Sutherland, and was often where we went to do our shopping (the drive coastwards along the glen was particularly spectacular, though not one for bad weather).

In the 1990s and into the 2000s the firm had a patchy history with different owners – plus some ridiculous infighting, chronicled in the pages of the local and national press – and was in and out of receivership twice before it finally died.*  During the last few years there was plenty of public investment (£5.3 million from Highlands and Island Enterprise, and £2 million from European funds) which eventually came to naught – and, inevitably, a consequent loss of ‘real’ jobs in an area otherwise highly dependent on tourism. Hunters was the largest private sector employer in Sutherland at one stage, which makes the infighting seem even more – reckless, perhaps. There are other words…

I loved Hunters tweed – still got a couple of metres stashed away somewhere, must turn it into cushions – though it was the wool which claimed my heart. But the supply in the shop was nothing compared to how the yarns used to appear in the mill itself. I found a wonderful photo on the website of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, which I just have to share:

Hunters of Brora wool store (RCHMS)

This was added to their collection of images in 1997, and it’s the Yarn Store at the mill.

I am currently engaged in a campaign to make inroads on my stash. When I started spinning I was warned that my stash would increase enormously, and so it has. I have banned myself from buying more wool (hah!) until I at least use some of what I’ve got, and what I have got is some from Hunters. The last from Hunters, no doubt. The two cones were washed and skeined and hung outside the croft to dry, and flew back to London with me (they had to be skeined; I failed completely to persuade various family members to drive them south and couldn’t fit them in my bag). They then matured a little in my stash, as is normal.

sweater repairI eventually made one into a giant cardigan, and the other into a big sweater, and I still had plenty left. But not enough for one garment. I toyed briefly with the idea of sleeves in different colours, but decided it would look even madder than usual. So I went stash diving.

There was a lot of Aran-weight brown tweed, which I remember buying years and years ago at the Otterburn Mill in Northumberland. Some of it was knitted up but the vintage pattern was so remorselessly 80s that I frogged it. Got lots of that. And then there were the leftovers from Hunters. And some blue tweedy aran-weight I bought in my by-now-standard last-minute buying frenzy at Wonderwool: not enough to do anything with, but I liked the colour. And it was all in good condition: by no means a given.

The Otterburn stuff was quickly discarded: it was more of a worsted weight, slightly thinner, plus the colour was a bit too red in tone to work with the others. But the rest went well.

Stripes!

IMG_8314

Oh, I know I’ll have fun weaving in the ends, but it’ll keep me quiet. I don’t knit them in as I go because I feel it gives more bulk on one side and makes a piece difficult to block, but I don’t mind sitting calmly watching telly, weaving in ends and swearing occasionally that I’ll never do it this way again. Of course I will… Ahem. It’s going to be a cardigan, with blue (got more of that that the others) ribbing, loosely based on a Rowan pattern. The challenge will be to rework the sleeve cap so the stripes match (they don’t on the original, as far as I can tell from the pics).

But I am so enjoying using the yarn. It’s soft and the colours are gorgeous and it’s Sutherland on my needles, here in Snowdonia. Gorgeous. And irreplaceable. Now.

stripe detail

* Hunters brand was bought and the tweeds have been relaunched, but it’s now based in Coldstream in the Lowlands; Brora, the cashmere brand, is unrelated though the founder’s family did own Hunters at one point.

Women can do anything they want…

and that includes spinning and knitting. And yo! for knitting on International Women’s day…

women knitting

Once upon a time I was stridently criticised by a particularly angry women for knitting. Apparently I was letting the side down. Apparently no feminist (for such we both were, and in my case still am) should contemplate doing such a thing.

Not right on enough, you see.

40s showgirls knitting

Of course, I was dressed like this at the time…

But even though I was actually wearing my dungarees – pocket useful for holding yarn, IMO, even if it did give you an attractive and unusual third breast – it was not good enough. Knitting, you see, was a Weapon of the Opressor. Women, apparently, just knitted for men and/or because men told them to.

Yeah, right.

WW1 women knitting

WW1 knitters, from Knitters of Yore, Interweave DVD

OK, these rather redoubtable women are knitting for men – for soldiers in WW1 (though perhaps some of the socks and scarves may have found their way to the nurses and VADs). So, quite possibly, are these women from WW2, who appear to be mending as much a creating:

women knitting in WW2

I wasn’t dressed like this either, when we had our argument, but on balance I feel more attracted to the ribbons and the shoes and the rather strange triangular hat worn by the dancers.

Once I’d stopped laughing, I could see she sort-of had something: women have knitted and spun and weaved and worked with textiles as part of their everyday lives, and done it to bring in income. They’ve been exploited doing it. But at some point everyone has, male and female – the deprived and exploited sock-knitters of mid-Wales, for instance, were men as well as women. That wasn’t what she was thinking of, though. After thirty minutes of abuse I snapped. I suspected that her attack on me had more to do with her relationship with her mother, an opinion I chose to share (hey, it was the mid-80s and she was into Marxist self-examination, so I felt I was being helpful, OK?). I might have gone a bit far, but I did mange not to stab her with my needles – long, metal and sharp, of course – which I consider to have been quite restrained.

Quite seriously, for me – raised by a stroppy feminist and true to my own roots – feminism broadly means I can do what I want and be what I want to be, providing I don’t harm anyone else, and that nobody has the right to tell me I cannot (it means many other things as well, but let’s not get distracted). OK, if I wanted to take up pole-dancing I might like to think about it a bit, but if I want to knit, I can knit. If I want to spin, I can spin.

NSW women spinning, WW1

Women spinning yarn for soldiers’ socks, New South Wales, 1915; Wikimedia Commons

If I want to be a brain surgeon, an astronaut, a farmer – I can. Society might not always agree, but by and large things have moved on a bit from the time I was told I couldn’t join a BBC cameraman [sic, and I was] training programme because I was female.

And if I want to knit, I’m ******* knitting.

wartime knitters

Wartime knitters – courtesy BBC / Getty

I am going along to have coffee with some women I know today in a local cafe, just to mark International Women’s Day. They are older than I am and most were once members of the Socialist Worker’s Party. I wonder if times really have changed? I shall take my knitting and find out!

(But I will not, as a public service, be wearing the dungarees, happily thrown out years ago. Bechod.)

Straight from the mill to my stash

otterburn millI’ve had this terrible weakness for years, almost before I knitted regularly. I’m a bit hooked on mill visiting, you see (this is the old Otterburn Mill in Northumberland). All I need is a sign assaying something like ‘historic woollen mill’ and I’m off down tiny lanes and up steep slopes, in complete defiance of oncoming traffic and hedge-cutting tractors (yes, my car is dented).

Actually, it’s not just mills – it’s almost any factory. I do hope it’s not just me – and it’s not some misplaced socialist romanticism either; I’ve worked – albeit briefly and as a student – in a chocolate factory. Put me off choc for at least ten years; I can recommend it as aversion therapy.

My girls’ grammar school was a perhaps untypical – not a hint of divided skirts, beefy games mistresses and people crying ‘Good shot, Ginger’ at lacrosse matches. Well, OK, a hint. More than a hint in the case of the first two but definitely not the third, as I was the only ginger and I was crap at lacrosse. Ahem. Sorry. Got distracted there: lacrosse leaves its scars. And sometimes teeth.

It was untypical in that it believed in giving the girls a broader view of life – and so we went on visits to things like printing works and newspaper offices and the aforementioned chocolate factory. This was obviously influential since at some point in my life I ended up working in all three. It’s something about the behind-the-scenes revelation, the ‘oh, that’s how you do X or make Y’ that has always fascinated me. Plus, there’s a real fascination is seeing people do what they do really well. (There’s also the entertainment factor, of course: I was a pre-uni intern in a really old-fashioned – even then – newspaper office when a printer dropped a forme and there was type all over the floor. Learned some really interesting words on that occasion, despite the elderly sub shouting that there was ‘a lass in t’office’. It made a change from checking names at funerals.)

Nat Wool MuseumBut for me there’s something really special about a woollen mill – which I suppose is predictable, even though I’m not a a weaver and probably never will be. I lack the patience. Completely. But do I admire those who have more application and attention to detail.

One of the saddest places I know (and one which I would undoubtedly try and buy if I won the lottery, though I’d have to buy a ticket first) is a woollen mill which is just ticking over. It’s such a shame; their weaves and patterns – especially their Welsh tapestry blankets – are gorgeous, and I love their colours. There’s so much that could be done with it – look at the success of Melin Tregwynt, for example, or Trefriw in the Conwy Valley. Or, indeed, the splendid work done by the National Wool Museum (that’s them above; would it were Melin X).

I spent a happy time at Trefriw once watching the looms – one was being warped, which was awe-inspiring – and wandering around the mill. Ah – and locking myself in one of the sheds accidentally, but we’ll draw a veil over that. Another loom was being used for weaving and I loved seeing the pattern gradually appear; it was not dissimilar to watching photographs materialise in the red light of my father’s darkroom. Quite hypnotic.

Welsh weaving is a living tradition, a thriving one in the right hands, and it’s such a shame to see Melin X almost vegetating. They’ve got some sensational equipment going back to the 1900s, including a fantastic mule, apparently still working. What they have not got is a tea room, a flock of acrylic sheep or other tourist tat but I don’t think they need those things. Unfortunately enthusiasm also seems to be lacking in the remaining members of the family (and that’s why I’m not naming the mill – I might be wrong; hope so).

Quite often mills sell knitting wool as well as cloth (and those beanbag sheep and mint humbugs and slippers and mugs with ‘a present from Wales’ written on them). I know that nine times out of ten this wool may be scratchy and better used in cloth, but it doesn’t stop me buying it. Sometimes I get lucky.

trefriw wool

Sometimes, despite being a bit itchy, I get beautiful stitch definition as well as lovely colours (and thanks, Trefriw, for this 4 ply yarn which made a triangular shawl – best worn over something, but hey).

And sometimes I get really lucky.

Take Jamieson’s of Sandness in Shetland – predictable that we should end up at the mill during our stay on Shetland a couple of years ago, but theirs is mainly wool for knitting, so it’s not quite the same – no way is there that lottery element, that ‘will it be so scratchy I won’t even be able to bear knitting with it’ dilemma (partial answer: wash it well). But when I set to go through my stash, in a vague attempt to at least use some of the All-Wales Yarn Mountain, I was surprised at what else I had. And they were all still fine – not a hint of deterioration. No snapping, no fraying, no breaking and (shhhhhh) no hint of moth. Now then – what will I do with them? There’s not an awful lot of anything – I wonder…

PS: Synchronicity, or what?

tapestry blanketJust after posting this I popped into the nearby town to do some shopping, called in on a friend who runs a charity shop. While we were talking a man came in with a donation – two vintage Welsh tapestry blankets.

Single bed size, in a soft daffodil yellow, bottle green and cream. I was able to persuade her to put them aside until there are more people about – Easter would be ideal – and to price them accordingly. I don’t imagine they’ll rise to the heights of some of the vintage textiles on Jane Beck’s  wonderful website devoted to Welsh textiles, but at least they’ll raise a good sum for cancer relief. Unfortunately (and incredibly) none of us had a camera on us, so this blanket detail is from Ceredigion Museum, and is from the equally wonderful Gathering the Jewels website.

Storms, snow, sunshine – and spinning

Last weekend, or Before the Hurricane as we like to refer to it round here, we had a long-expected party. Oh, all right, a long-expected spinning retreat weekend, but it did bear a resemblance to Bilbo’s 111th birthday party in that there was general celebration and lots of cake.

cakeAnd flapjacks, caramel shortbread, trifle, crumble, baked spuds, casseroles, soups, wine, beer, whisky, home-made loaves and marmalade – though when it came to the fireworks we had to make do with the weather. In all fairness, it did its best to entertain and I don’t think we missed anything out, except possibly fog.

Ahem. Did I mention we were spinning?

The Dolgellau Sunday Market Spinners have a problem in January and February; there’s no farmers’ market and the cafe where we usually spin is therefore closed. We tend to try and squeeze into each other’s houses but it’s not easy; most of us live in variations on the theme of the Welsh cottage, and they’re not noted for their big rooms. So this year we booked a local self-catering place for a long February weekend and, with a bit of organisation on the cake food front, we were well set up for a fibrous weekend.

LlandanwgInitially the weather lulled us into a false sense of security, which was great as it meant that we could unpack our cars into the Hall without getting any of our fluff wet. This was just as well, as most of us appeared to have brought our entire stash, as well as every single piece of spinning equipment we owned.

Let me see. There were seven spinners (and two friends of spinners). We had four drum carders, one set of wool combs, an infinite number of niddy-noddies, lazy Kates, and a skein winder; two Hansen mini spinners, two Ashford traddies, a Louet Victoria, a Louet Julia and a couple of Lendrums. That list means nothing to a non-spinner, but I’ll translate – eight spinning wheels. Yes, one person brought two. You know who you are…

Saturday’s weather could only have been described as disgusting. High winds, torrential rain, occasional cracks of thunder: vile. We sent the non-spinners out to fill the log baskets (well, they’d just have been hanging around otherwise, ho ho) then lit the stoves and the open fires and settled down for a day’s spinning and nattering.

doglets

I have to say that the combination of bad weather, roaring fires, good friends, spinning and knitting, and eating cake is a hard one to beat. And the lads’ terrible performance in the rugby failed to dent our enjoyment. Largely because most of us would rather spin than watch rugby (some would stick knives in their heads rather than watch rugby), but it was beautifully cosy.

Hm.And we learned how to use wool combs too (and make beautiful baguettes) – and, incidentally, how to remove a miniature Schnuazer from a Suri Alpaca fleece; no ordinary sheep’s fleece for Madam, oh no. Well, those ceramic tiles were distinctly chilly on a girl’s bot.

I now, but of course, think I need a set of wool combs. I do not. I do not. I have just bought a Classic Carder. I do not need wool combs too. (Could do with a Suri Alpaca fleece though, it was yummy.)

There’s a traditional Welsh ditty about fleece which seemed entirely appropriate. I found it a few months ago when I was doing a bit of research into the local sock-knitting business in Dolgellau local history library:

Mae’n bwrw glaw allan
Mae’n hindda’n y tŷ
A merched Tregaron
Yn chwalu gwlân du…

It is raining outside
It is dry in the house
And the girls of Tregaron
Picking black wool…

OK, we’re probably not ‘girls’ as such (I always hear the voice of Maggie Smith as Miss Jean Brodie when I hear that word – ‘girrrrls’) and some are even – shh – male, but there was certainly some picking of black(ish) wool going on. And lots of other things too…


Let’s hope they’ll have us back next year – It would be lovely. But possibly without quite so much weather