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.
And 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.
Initially 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.
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.
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…