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Spinning a new yarn

People across the globe have been putting a twist into a bunch of fibres since Neolithic times. Spinning is not new. It is something deeply embedded into our universal, historic DNA. So perhaps we should not be surprised by the recent burgeoning revival of interest in the craft; nor in the extent of its attraction. Having learned the skills of hand spinning over fifty years ago, I am however, somewhat surprised to find so many people from all walks of life, beating a path to my door.

After years of embracing all the cheap benefits of man-made fibres, the fashion industry and canny shoppers are rediscovering and celebrating the joys of natural fibres. Wool is warm, flexible, hard-wearing, environmentally friendly, renewable, the eco-list goes on and on. Ditto the oh-so-desirable alpaca and cashmere. Wanting to be able to hand spin natural fibres into a uniquely personal yarn can also be directly linked to the recent fast growing interest in knitting and crochet. Knitting, joy of joys, is now trendy. So is spinning.

The spinning skills I learned in school in the 1960s, briefly revisited in the 70s and refreshed in the 21st century might have remained in my personal domain had a friend not asked me to show her how to ‘do it’. There is so much fun and enjoyment in sharing a creative skill. Having successfully taught one happy new spinner I dusted off my teaching certificate from way back when and took stock. An advert with led to a succession of enquiries. And so, from a deeply satisfying hobby grew Cartmel Handspun Spinning School, now in its third year.

Of those keen to learn, or re-learn, this ancient and now so modern skill, I have enjoyed teaching sheep farmers young and old, civil servants, an IT specialist, several nurses, a mid-wife, teachers, a writer, a Portuguese banker (who flew over specially for the course), crafts people, retired business people and students. Some come with their own spinning wheels, one with a wheel which “fell out of the loft”. Others have bought a wheel on the internet and then found it didn’t quite work. My helpful husband, a bookseller by trade has become quite adept at fixing spinning wheels. People come with all levels of aptitude, from absolute beginner to crafters with some inherent natural ability, and spinners wanting to refresh lapsed skills. Aged from sixteen to over seventy, men and women have embraced an ancient art and learnt how to put a twist in a bunch of fibres. They have gone away, happily, with a new and yet very old passion.

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