Baa Baa Black Sheep

Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
Trip End May 30, 2013

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Monday, April 15, 2013

I first started to learn to knit when we moved to Scotland at the beginning of 2011.  I found it interesting...a very useful skill to have, but not the most creative of ventures for myself.  Other fibre crafts seemed a bit more interesting.  I did take a one-day felting workshop and was able to work with fleece and gained a better appreciation of what wool is and what it can do.  Staying on a Merino wool farm in Australia began to peak my interest in wool and wool products a bit more.  I learned about some different breeds of sheep and how different their wool can be. 

When we arrived at this HelpX I couldn't help but spy the spinning wheel in the corner almost immediately. The baskets of bobbins and wool carders also caught my eye. There are so many wonderful handmade things here. Part of what makes it feel so warm and cozy.

My fingers were just itching to get in there and try some things out (and not itchy from the wool)!

On one particularly rainy afternoon, Hilary got out her felting project.  Hilary has been spinning and dying and felting (as well as many other crafts) for many years.  She's currently making a long rug to fill the hallway all made of felt. Since it's such a large project it needs to be done in
separate pieces. Even so, the individual pieces are bigger than the dining room table!

Now at the best of times, felting is hard work! I can remember when I did my one day workshop making a small bag what a work-out it was on the arms! We actually rolled this piece in an old bamboo blind!  With the two of us rocking and rolling most of a rainy afternoon trying to get the fibers to felt together. She has a lovely pattern of flowers and vines running along the rug. By now the runner is about 2/3 of the way down the hallway. Only 2 more panels to go!

The next project I started on was needle felting. I had heard about this but had yet to try. Very simply, you take some carded fleece and run a barbed needle through them gently binding the fibers together. You can gently shape your pieces and the more you needle the firmer it becomes. I had a fun little play making some sheep figures.

The next and most exciting venture for me was the act of spinning itself. I had always wondered how this was wound around, and what exactly is the spinning needle Snow White pricked her finger on?

A bit of a battle of hand-foot coordination I eventually managed some over-spun lumpy twisted thread. Every time I tried it started to feel a bit more natural and things began to even out a bit. Soon I had a bobbin full.  The next thing that you need to do is ply it to another. You can either spin another bobbin and ply them together (2 ply yarn) or have fun and ply it with something different. I chose to ply it with some ribbon.

After your yarn is plied together you wrap it around the kniddy knoddy to help hold everything in place. Washing and drying usually follow to help make sure the twist really sets in and won't
immediately unravel. If I can make enough, I would like to knit something with it!

I've been having fun looking at books from the library with inspirational pictures of spun wool. At first you might think they are just tangles by people who don't know how to spin. But they are exceptionally beautiful in their own right and don't need to be knit into anything!  With my limited experience, I have attempted to make a couple of these.  They are decidedly harder than they appear! As I start to knit with these yarns, a lot of the individual charater of the spinning seems to be lost. Therefore, it just begins to look quite regular when all knit up. It's a shame, but at the same time makes my primitive spinning look a bit better!

We took a visit to Ashburton to see where the Ashford spinning wheels were made.  Ashford is world renowned and one of the best companies for making spinning wheels.  The handicraft shop was a lovely place full of everything needed for knitting, crochet, felting, spinning, and weaving. Plus a gorgeous little coffee shop. I restrained myself from buying a spinning wheel (this time) and was contented myself with some merino/silk blend that I will try to felt together into a scarf.  I've always admired cobwebbing!

The next day, we were walking through Geraldine's antique shop and there Brian saw a spinning wheel! Far from antique, it was in beautiful shape. Knowing that I would kick myself for the rest of my life whenever I thought I wool, we bought it!!! Now will be the challenge of getting it back home.

In addition for our regular work, I tried to cram in as much wool crafting as I could during our stay!

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