Sharing skills – an article on lock spinning by Marie Johnson

Lock Spinning

This story begins many moons ago while practicing that well known yoga pose ‘bargain hunter’. Yes I think you do know the one, it’s where upon seeing a box labelled ‘show offers’ (which for some reason are usually tucked in some corner of the stand) you proceed to clasp your knees together to hold the bag tops of the purchases you have already made, so freeing up both hands; then raise your bottom in the air and extend your back in order to give the best possible angle to fully explore the possible bargains in the ‘show offers’ box. This was the position I found myself in while visiting Bakewell Wool Gathering. Bakewell is a lovely show, it isn’t the biggest but I find people are always friendly and ready to pass on their skills and techniques. I had been planning to purchase an ex-display rigid heddle loom from Wingham Wool Work; however, on entering the show I was fortunate to purchase a slightly larger size loom at a much lower price. The seller had bought it but had not even taken it out of the packaging due to being immersed in other crafts, so as you can imagine I was already high on the crafty cloud of life as I made my way round the rest of the show. akewell is a lovely show, it isn’t the biggest but I find people are always ready to pass on their skills and techniques. On a final amble round the show, now satisfied that there was hardly a corner left untouched I spied the ‘show offers’ box and upon assuming the position as detailed above a magpie moment struck and I obtained exhibit A.

unprepped locks

I had no clue what I was going to accomplish with this piece of gorgeous coloured lustrous loveliness I just knew that it would round off my day perfectly.

Not a lot happened with my purchase for quite a long time, I returned home and proceeded to set up my loom and began getting to know the ins and outs (that probably should be wefts and warps!) of weaving. Life got in the way and things crafty took a back seat for a while, then came a period of enforced craftiness (otherwise known as redundancy, every cloud has a silver lining!). During this time I joined a local weaving felting and spinning group it met monthly and I found myself enjoying the crafty focus and support of a group meeting. Happily I managed to find another job, and while employment prevented me attending the monthly group, as they met during the week, it provided funds for future crafty projects. Thus began my attendance at the Hallamshire Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers. So you see I joined as a newbie weaver, however I was encouraged by the positive crafty vibes of the group and decided to borrow a guild wheel to see if I could accomplish anything in the field of spinning.

The guild holds periodic skill sharing days and on such a day I took the guild wheel and my lustrous piece of fluff and went in search of guidance. Guild member Lesley Bishop had previously spoken about how she attended an Associated Guild Summer School where she had learned many magical spinning skills. I made my approach, “I have this, and I don’t know what to do with it. I just liked the colours!

Not to be phased Lesley began to show me how the locks should be pulled from the main body of the piece of fleece and gently combed at one end where the fibres had been joined.

prepped locks

As you can see the true lustre of the locks began to shine out. As the locks were combed through Lesley explained how they could be incorporated into weaving just as they were. This became more apparent when she split the combed end of the lock to form a ‘T’ shape. This shape would allow the combed ends to be added to the weft in a piece of weaving.

locks ready for spinning

As I had the guild wheel with me Lesley suggested that these could also be spun to form a textured yarn. I was more than a little nervous at this idea as I had only had the wheel on loan for 2 months and was still getting to grips with the more basic side of basic! Unperturbed Lesley prepared a few more locks and combed through some of the additional fibres from the combing process. As the colours had all blended together the resulting fibre toned in well with all of the prepared locks.

firbe from locks

Lesley began showing me how the combed ends should be held so the fibres twisted together to form a textured single. The phrase ‘a child in a sweet shop’ gives only some idea of the glee I feel when learning a new skill and the benefits of a knowledgeable and patient teacher cannot be underestimated. Under her guidance I managed to spin a textured single, accomplished spinners may wish to avert your eyes, however, words cannot say how pleased I was with it.

spun locks

Many thanks to Lesley Bishop, The Hallamshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers and to Katie Johnson for the photographs.

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Guild Challenge

2015 Guild Challenge

Time for Tea

We were asked to design and make an item that can either be used on a tea table or that represents an aspect of taking tea. The item must use one or more of the Guild skills: spinning, weaving or dyeing.
The submission for entry was at the Guild meeting on 12th September 2015.

As soon as I get the photographs I will upload them here.

Members of the guild are welcome to add their photos here, too.

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A Continuing Thread – Exhibition 2014


Following our successful 50th anniversary exhibition in 2011, Hallamshire Guild members were keen to work towards another major exhibition in 2014. ‘A Continuing Thread’ was to show a snapshot of the Guild now; a vibrant, active and steadily growing group of people of all ages and abilities. The venue for this show was the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield, a city centre location and a wonderful bright,
modern space.
Our exhibition was to show the work of the Guild in its entirety. This included work from across the range of expertise from beginner to the more experienced and accomplished. It also included demonstrations of many types of weaving and spinning and some dying. The exhibition space was divided up into four main areas, each focussing on one of the skills and taking the visitor on a journey from fibre to finished article.
The entrance space exhibited material from the Guilds’ archive. The beginnings of the
Guild and its early activities showed the strength of its membership from the very
start, with a shift from mainly weaving in its early years (with only one spinner in its
75 members at the outset), to a more diverse membership in more recent years. Also,
at the beginning of the exhibition, the Guild Challenge, an annual competition, was on show for public judging. The scarves on show were a prime example of how a simple subject results in limitless interpretations.
The ‘Dye Garden’ area displayed the potential of natural dyes; summarised in a skein colour wheel. The process of solar dying was shown with glass jars filled with dyebaths of onion skins, madder, woad etc., glowing in the autumn light of the gallery.
The ‘Spinners Spinney’ consisted of trees of golden twisted willow, fruitful with skeins of handspun yarn. Here, the visitor could see wheel spinning, spindle, stick and rakestraw spinning. Many of the exhibits that spinners had made put spun wool to use in knitted items, from throws and blankets in chow and alpaca to the finest laceweight knitting on piano wire needles in silk and bamboo.
‘Weaveworld’ was located at the end of the exhibition and this area consisted of looms of all shapes and sizes; tablet weaving, backstrap and inkle loom weaving as well as a floor loom. The visitor could try out many of these pieces of equipment and this part of the exhibition was very popular.
Although weavers are now in the minority in the Guild, the work on display demonstrated quality as well as variety and ambition. The samples for a Guild workshop on double weave attracted a good deal of attention because of their puzzle- like complexity.
The galleries had also allowed us to use the public space outside our exhibition and here members set up an activities table for children. This was fully occupied on both days with peg loom weaving, braiding and making Gods’ Eye stars. Hopefully, this introduction to the pleasure and fun of our fibre arts will mean that our Guild will continue to grow for the next fifty years.

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