OHS: Spinning stories from fibre, Part 1

Dracula skein

Ontario Handspinning Seminar took place this past weekend. It was attended by more than 140 spinners. This year’s theme explored the connection between spinning and storytelling. Children’s stories, folk tales and fables played an important role. The relationships between story and fibre ranged from whimsical to practical to profound.

On Saturday morning, organizing committee chair Beth Showalter presented a hands-on activity entitled “One Upon a Time.” Every participant was randomly assigned to one of about 10 groups. Each group received excerpts and a synopsis from a different book along with a tub of fibre specially selected to relate to the story. We were asked to create skeins of yarn to somehow represent the tale. Some of the titles were A Wrinkle in Time, Heidi and Harry Potter.

I landed in the group assigned Dracula. Combining talents with two friends from my guild, Donna Hancock and Lianne Tanner, we created the skein above, inspired by a description of the count:

“His face was not a good face. It was hard, and cruel, and sensual, and big white teeth, that looked all the whiter because his lips were so red, were pointed like an animal’s.”

Saturday afternoon workshops were also based on nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Rapunzel became a lesson in kumihimo and Beauty and the Beast involved making the best out of a painted roving. Of course there was something about spinning flax into gold. Too bad we could only choose one workshop.

Kit Fisher teaches techniques for washing fleece

I took Kit Fisher’s workshop, “Three bags full.” She providing us with samples from several different kinds of fleece—well six actually: Jacob, Shetland, Icelandic, Cormo, Liecester longwool and East Friesland. The idea was to familiarize ourselves with different types of wool, discuss their various applications and try some different washing techniques.

Kit showed us how to clean fleece:

  1. by hand-dipping individual locks (cleans the best but is a very slow approach to washing a large fleece)
  2. by washing a bunch of fleece in a mesh bag (the fastest method, but it jumbles the locks and is less effective because more of the dirt gets trapped)
  3. (as demonstrated by Kit, above) by lining up some locks on a cloth napkin, folding and pinning it into a packet and then washing it (moderately labour intensive, keeps the locks nicely lined up for easier processing, and leaves most of the dirt on the napkin)

Largely inspired by Kit’s workshop, I purchased a 12-pound Border Leicester fleece from one of the vendors, LambsQuarters. It came from a six-year-old ewe with a wavy crimp, not as fine and tight as the other fleeces available. However, I was impressed with its high sheen. I intend to use this fleece to explore dyeing technique, and it should add nice lustre to the colours.

Border Leicester fleece

Watch for more highlights from OHS tomorrow, including some gorgeous finished projects, an embarrassment of riches, and Stone Soup.

12 thoughts on “OHS: Spinning stories from fibre, Part 1

  1. Looks like you had a lot of fun, Van. Your fleece is gorgeous! I can’t wait to see how you use it!

    1. Thanks, Sara. Yes, it’s nice to see you again. I hope all is well.

  2. Van, this seems such a great activity,tying storytelling in with feeling fabrics nd thinking oolours. When we lived in Canberra, I took up weaving and loved it; it slowed me down and I loved it.

    ”””’you seem to find some lovely groups with ideas that touch the core of life.

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