Last week I received an email from my Guild informing me that Mudchute Farm was holding an agricultural event during the weekend, and would some spinners be available to demonstrate their skills?
I'm not normally one to jump at this sort of request (I'm not an introvert but I'm not exactly Miss Social either) but I decided to make something out of my weekend and say yes. It didn't hurt that they were offering us fleece in return...
After speaking with Hazel, our guild liaison, it was decided that I would show up on Sunday. I was super responsible and wrote down a list of all the stuff I needed, and added to it after asking for help on my Facebook and Instagram. I even packed the day before! I must be growing up.
After I packed, my other half looked at everything and announced he would go with me so I didn't have to struggle with it all. I'm not sure he was being romantic or afraid I'd collapse under the weight of it all, but I wasn't going to complain.
If you've never been to London, this city has one remarkable trait: it's definitely huge, but one thing that makes its size tolerable it's the amount of parks there are. Mudchute Farm is a bona fide farm with chickens, ducks, guinea pigs, goats, lamas, alpacas and sheep, right in the middle of the city. Once you're there you forget you're in an urban setting and, in a way, you aren't.
The whole place was busy by the time I arrived. There were plenty of visitors already, and there were food stalls, craft stalls and even water throwing contests.
My happy place would always be the animals, so imagine my joy when I saw a feathered kindred spirit - this chicken must be a distant relative of mine, judging by the hair on its head... Someone told me it refused to live among its fellow chickens, showing instead an interest in ducks. You go, you amazing looking rooster you!
After setting up the wheel between my fellow members of the London Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, I got to work. I had brought an art batt I'd made a while back (to salvage some fugly wool tops I bought at a fair), some commercial yarn, and I started to do some core spinning.
We all had different brands of wheels, and we were doing different things. Hazel was doing long draw, whereby you get woollen yarn, all fluffy, lofty and warm; Christine was doing worsted spinning to produce some (hah) worsted yarn, a sturdy and shinier end result; I was, as mentioned before, doing core spinning. Core spinning is when you get some pre-existing yarn and use it as a core to wrap your own fibres around it, producing a yarn that's also lofty, lightweight and with a very distinct colour definition.
People would come into our room and ask us questions. Children were naturally very curious and some men wanted to know the engineering bit of the wheel - your typical muggle reactions. We had a table set up with some clean wool, some yarn and a knitted hat, so that people could see the progress. That hat got worn a lot by little humans!
When I went on my break, it was time to look at more animals.
Now comes a part I'm not sure I enjoyed. I really love owls and birds of prey in general, but seeing them under a tent to be looked at didn't sound dignified to me. To be honest, I felt sorry for them.
In a similar context, the organisers had planned a goat racing event but it got cancelled because people complained it was cruel. One of the persons there assured me they wouldn't make the goats do anything they didn't want to, and they were jumping animals by nature. What do you think?
Finally, it was time to collect our bounty! None of us spinners was going to miss out on getting some nice fibre. I can tell you that there was a bit of a Fleece Hunting thing going on, since we had to look in three different locations before finding the "good stash." On the other hand, now we know all their secret fleece storing facilities. We might have made a joke or two about breaking in at night and taking all their good fluff.
Sundae has been working at Mudchute for 15 years and she was nice enough to help us go through two huge bags of wool. In case you're wondering, yes, those were raw fleeces. Since we're fibre addicts, I can assure you none of us had any qualms about sinking our hands into them. I came home with two lovely fleeces, one white and one curly black one.
After all that excitement (and thorough hand washing) it was time for a little more spinning and then packing up. Now I have big plans to wash those fleeces in a special way, and I'll share that with you very soon in another blog post.
So, what did you do with your weekend? Share your thoughts and comments with me below.