Burwash Manor Open Farm: an impromptu demo

Hellooo!!!  I’m breaking my blog silence(!) to tell you about a weekend which went completely not according to plan, but in a very good way.

I started off well, with a gathering of knitters and spinners on Friday evening.  One of the members mentioned she was in search of an all-wood drop spindle to use on the plane back to the states, so I said she could have one of mine:

I arranged to meet her at the knitting in public day on Saturday, to hand it over  This was my first unplanned event; I’d thought I’d be going to a different location, if any.  So I packaged the wee spindle up with a sparkly batt for good luck, and off I went.  I was there for less than two hours, but had an awesome time.  (I also learnt that I should carry my business cards with me whenever I go anywhere with either knitting OR spindles in public!)

I had so much fun I decided that I really did want to go to one of the Open Farm Sunday events in our area, to demonstrate spinning.

So on Sunday morning, I made seven more spindles, packed up samples of handspun yarn and things made from it, some food and water, my  wheel and a spindle, and trucked off to Burwash Manor (eventually.  I had a bit of a disagreement with the GPS on the way…).

And I’m so glad I went!  No-one else from the group made it to that event, so I had the stand all to myself.  Which, in a way, was nice; I felt fine handing out my business cards (which I remembered this time!), and there were no odd little decisions to make as to who is the ‘group leader’ and who should be talking to whom or anything like that.  I’m very glad I took all those samples, though; if I’d assumed someone else was going to be organising it, and just turned up with myself and a wheel, it would have been pretty lame.  If I’d known, I’d have taken even more!

Overall, I had an absolute blast.  I spent most of the time spindling, and gave away four spindles.  One went to a little girl who was an absolute natural; one went to a lady who has always wanted to learn.  I helped children too young to try spindling to make hand-twisted woolly bracelets, and let several children treadle the wheel (and was glad I had a double treadle wheel; it’s definitely easier to get the hang of).  There was a group including several special needs children there; one boy in particular loved treadling.  He came back several times during the day, and sat and treadled industriously, with an aura of calm radiating from him.  It seemed to be enough, just to press the treadles and watch the wheel go round.

I also tried spinning wool whilst a child treadled.  I only did it once, at the end of the day, and it helped that the wee lad was very consistent in his treadling (and didn’t just want to make the wheel go as fast as possible!).  I was able to spin a short length of yarn which could be plied back on itself and taken as a souvenir.  I’d definitely do that again, with children who can treadle well enough.

I also played the “what colour next?” game with a group of children who were watching me spin on the wheel.  I’ve found in the past that it’s not always obvious that the fluff in my hands is being converted into a yarn which is being wound onto the bobbin; you can’t really see the yarn moving.  So I had small scraps of coloured fluff and asked them to pick the next colour.  They could see each colour get spun up and move onto the bobbin, and I eventually pulled off the multicoloured single and plyed it back on itself.  Two people asked if they could have a scrap to add to a ‘memory stick’ – not the computer kind!  These were something new to me, and I thought they were a brilliant idea.  I think there must have been a craft tent where people were making these during the day.  A memory stick in this case was a sturdy stick, about a foot long.  It had a string wrapped snugly round it in a spiral, about one turn per inch, I’d guess, and tied at each end.  Bits of ‘stuff’ (feathers, straw, wool from the sheep that were being sheared, and my yarn too!) could be stuck behind the straw to make a sort of sculptural collage of the day’s mementos.  The fact that my demo yarn was actually asked for really meant a lot to me.

I met kindred spirits, and the merely curious.  I explained wheel mechanics, and talked about the sheer number of hours needed to provide yarn for a household before the industrial revolution.  I compared the per-minute efficiency of spinning on a wheel with the per-week efficiency of spinning on a spindle, which can go everywhere with you.

Unfortunately, I also managed to trip on a totally flat piece of ground at the end of the day, and do a real number on one of my knees.  I left my business card for the lady organiser, who kept coming round with cups of tea (thankyouthankyouthankyou!) and cake (omnomnomnom!), so with any luck I may hear from them again in the future.

So, what did I learn?

  • That I can pull off a one-woman spinning demo at virtually zero notice.
  • That I could easily have more materials: samples, leaflets, all kinds of things, ready for the future.
  • That the gift of a simple spindle can reduce children and adults to incoherent joy.
  • That I (still) love doing demos, and I should be aware of opportunities to do more.
  • That, really, I ought to remember to use my camera.  D’oh!

One comment

  • KraftyKaren

    Sounds like you had a real fab and interesting day.

    14th June 2010

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