Sharing skills – an article on lock spinning by Marie Johnson

by | Mar 7, 2016 | Event write-ups

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.