Spinning in public, or I may never be the same again

I’m exhausted. My hands are bad. My thumbs hurt. I can’t speak properly.

This isn’t the result of over-indulgence, of celebrations brought on by reaching a mad-panic deadline (was far too tired to celebrate that). This is the result of Worldwide Spinning in Public Day. You didn’t know? How is that possible?

But it was fun. Really!

One of the problems we have with WWSIP day around us is finding somewhere we can be suitably exhibitionist, but which also gives us the chance of seeking shelter when it rains. This is Wales – so that’s when, not if.

One thing we do have, largely ‘thanks’ to Edward the First and his conquest of the country, is an abundance of castles. In a moment of true inspiration, one of my fellow spinners talked to the curator of Caernarfon, world heritage site and well-visited tourist attraction – and one which also has a roof over a couple of towers. And so it was that we found ourselves unloading our spinning wheels in the shadow of some of the most intimidating architecture in the country.

In some ways I think we subverted the architecture – it’s quite hard for a castle to be scary and ominous when there is also a group of chatty spinners making their presence felt and explaining what they’re up to. There was one major possible disadvantage: wind. Cold wind, and a wind which eddies bizarrely around the inside of the castle. But we were forewarned, and if there’s one thing to be said for spinning, it warms you up. And there are always fingerless gloves – though, as I discovered, they can act as a sort of fleece magnet.

At first we were a little restrained. We found seats and settled ourselves down, close to the dungeon – yes, really – where we were to go if it poured down.

Soon we had six wheels up and running, and gradually more and more visitors came over to see what was going on. Several things surprised me, though in retrospect they weren’t actually that surprising, really.

One was the sheer range of nationalities. Between us we speak Welsh, English, Dutch and French and I think we needed all of them. Had we been able for it, Mandarin and Japanese wouldn’t have gone unused, either, and nor would German.

Another was how many knitters there were, across all the nationalities, and how few of them knew about the wonderful resource that is Ravelry (they know now). But we also flushed some spinners, one an American who hadn’t spun for ages because she’d not really got going, and soon an impromptu lesson was in progress:

Another was a recent arrival in the area who’d been a member of one of the Scottish Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers and was looking for a local Guild. She’s found one.

Happily, we’d all got something different to show, even if that was just our wheels. And I must thank my friends for their restraint as they heard me describe, yet again, how my own wheel had been made out of bits of lab bench, driftwood and yacht. I’d brought some knitting as well – I have to spin some more to finish the shawl and this was a good opportunity to catch up – and as it was really local wool, it gave me the chance to talk sheep (always happy to talk sheep) and fleece prep.

Well, how to get the sheep poo out, basically, which seemed to be of special interest,* and I wish I knew the answer.

People were fascinated. They wanted to touch, they wanted to understand and, in the case of one small boy, wanted to have a surreptitious go at treadling. And – of course – we all had to have a good look at what everyone else was doing.

One person had brought lots of naturally dyed fleece (dyed with woad, generally, in variations of intensity) and I was instantly attracted by the echoed colour palette:

Plus, I got to try a Louet Victoria. Not that I would contemplate being unfaithful to my wheel for a minute (shhh – she may be listening) but I could certainly do with something a little more portable, especially now Madam has a plastic drive band which comes off at the drop of a hat when she’s lifted. I don’t blame her: I’m sure my drive band would come off every five minutes if I was hauled about the countryside under someone’s arm all the time.

I spun fairly solidly from 10.30 in the morning until about 3 p.m., with breaks. I had to give up eventually, and I am paying for it today (though not as much as I should be; maybe things are getting better), but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Roll on next year!

*Hm – especially of interest to men. Does this mean something?


10 thoughts on “Spinning in public, or I may never be the same again

    1. kate Post author

      Now that sounds good – coffee on tap! The one disadvantage of the Castle was that it didn’t have a decent espresso machine (well, I could have taken a flask; everyone else had, but hey)…

  1. del

    I hope your hands can recover quickly but that does seem worth it. I love the fact that people were so interested and they were so varied. Sounds like a lovely day!

    1. Kate Post author

      It was a bit last minute, which goes to show – maybe – that I shouldn’t try and plan things so far in advance, because you can have a great time anyway. But I’m sure the Knit Day will be good too (though possibly without so many international tourists), and it will be really lovely to see you then…


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