Thanks so much to member Melodi for this guest post. One for our archives, definitely! If you would like to guest blog for the Guild, just email email@example.com.
We moved here about 19 years ago and I had already been spinning for over a decade and brought my wheel from the US. I was spinning at a village festival here in Shinrone probably 18 years ago and there was a women and her very elderly Mother who also had wheels.
I got to talking to the elderly women (who I know has since passed away as I ran into her daughter a few years ago) anyway she was spinning the most amazing smooth and usable yarn from uncarded and unwashed fleeces. Now I’d seen plenty of people in Colorado and California spin unwashed fleece, I’ve done that too; but not un-carded or combed unless they were making novelty yarn.
The elderly lady explained that when she was girl, not only were combs/cards too expensive for most people to buy, time was precious and it was considered a waste of time when with practice perfectly good yarn could be spun without this step. Watching her I had to agree…
I went home and practiced some, I found that Jacob wool worked best for this and later discovered on the internet that I was basically “spinning off the fold” to make it work. Some wool didn’t really work at all for this and longer staple worked better than short-staple.
I didn’t work on this very long because I just prefer washed fleeces for the most part and that means at least lightly hand combing at the very least and I have a drum carder from Sweden and hand cards I usually use.
But I thought the story was very interesting and though you might like it for your archives. I have no idea if this was a Midlands practice or a more widely spread idea.
The other really sweet but kind of sad thing that happened years later I was spinning at a demo at Birr Castle when a very elderly lady came up, with a younger women probably a grand daughter (also an adult) she very slowly walked up looking kind of vacant (as people do when they are are in advanced old age and possible memory issues) but then her eyes lit up and she put her hand on the wheel and said with a huge smile “I used to do that!” she turned to the younger women who by this point had tears running down her face and in a much stronger voice she repeated with a huge grin “I USED TO DO THAT!” she patted the wheel again, the light in her eyes faded and she shuffled away followed by the younger women.
I have to say that is something I will never forget and sort of makes of for the one million and sometimes I have to answer “hey lady, can you spin straw into gold?”….