handspun spun and sheepy, the pleasures of wool from just down the road….

handspun wool

Back at the start of the year I had the pleasure to meet some of the ladies from the wealth of local Spinning,Weaving and Dyers Guilds that Norfolk seems to have in abundance…. the main library in Norwich is in a building  called the Forum and there are often exhibitions on in the atrium.  I’d seen a sign up outside saying something about a Maker’s month but didn’t really know what to expect….so wandered in, more with the intention of re-newing a couple of books than anything else…and then almost had to stop and rub my eyes as there before me was a group of ladies all on various spinning wheels with a backdrop of beautiful handspun yarn behind them…..I wrote about this at the time, but I then went back the following week with a bit more money on me so I could buy some of the fantastc yarn that was for sale.

I wish so much you could rub the screen of ypour computer and get a good whiff of these two fat skeins….they smell so good, there’s a slight sharp tang followed by such a softness…..I can’t smell either without closing my eyes, my face fair beaming with the intoxicating sheepy bliss of the smell and feel of them.  Both of these were spun by Lizbeth Cranmer from The Mid Norfolk Guild of Spinners,Weavers and Dyers.  I don’t think she has an on-line shop but you can contact her via The Mid Norfolk Guild.  Lizbeth was also very kind and has answered a couple of questions I had about where the wool for the yarn was sourced…..

handspun castlemilk moorit

First up is a fat and fragrant skein of Castlemilk Moorit, this is actually a lighter shade than some I’ve bought from Brit Yarn.  It’s a fat dk/aran.  For hand, squish grab delight…oh my goodness, I could barely put it down, even now it’s near to hand so I can regularly bury my face into it….the skein weighed 87 grammes and is approx 234 metres in length.  I’ve opened up the skein and wrapped it around my neck like a cowl…no tickles or itchiness…just that warm, secure comfort you only get from wool.

The Castlemilk Moorit comes from Wood Norton (about 19 miles from Norwich) and is from a small flock of 8 sheep which are kept as pets/lawnmowers.

handspun Shetland wool

The second skein is a rich chocolately Shetland, spun about the same thickness.  This is a bit of a heavier skein weighing in at 119 grammes with an approx length of 250 metres. While still sheepy scented this isn’t as sharp as the Castlemilk Moorit, but my goodness it’s as soft and velvety as a kittens tummy…I’d happily wear thermals knitted in this…you know when you eat something nice and you instantly go “mmmm” …this wool is just like that, my eyes close, my heart beat slows and I can’t help but smile and “mmmm” with pleasure.

Lizbeth believes the Shetland is from a fleece that she  got from a friend who lives in the Dereham area (about 15 miles out of Norwich).  It makes me really happy to know I’m using yarn that comes from sheep that live so near by and which hasn’t been flown in from goodness knows where.

I’m pretty undecided yet about what I’m going to knit with these skeins, in part because my knitting know-how/skills are as yet somewhat limited.  There’s enough for a huge cowl but I understand that both yarns are pretty hardy so I’m thinking they’d be lovely as a cardigan, the yarn isn’t making my skin prickle so I’d happily wear this without my thermals underneath so I’d have the full pleasure of feeling the fabric against my arms.

I was going to say this wasn’t particulalry “sexy” wool but actually it is, it’s rustic in that Gabriel Oak, gentle, strong and capable way…I just want to drape both skeins around me and spend the rest of the afternoon on the sofa watching Far from the Madding Crowd or reading a book of English Folk tales.

dorset horn and my spinning stickAnd there wasn’t just beautiful handspun yarn to buy, the ladies were all very enthusiastic about “come and sit down and have a go yourself”.  The first week I had a try at a spinning wheel (for the most part without the yarn but just trying out the pedal motion which left me as relaxed feeling as a couple of glasses of wine) and I also had a try with a drop spindle….the drop spindle was okay but I couldn’t really seem to get my fingers doing what they were supposed to…..then when I went back the following week Lizbeth suggested I try a Bulgarian spinning stick …even though my attempts at spinning weren’t great, the spinning stick (or vretana) felt so comfortable in my hands that I ended up buying one of those as well…..the yarn that came with it was some commercially produced Dorset Horn so while Lizbeth was able to name the breed, she wasn’t able to say where the wool had came from.

fleece from Delilah

Then she produced these fat wobbles of fleece (or rolags) she’d made which came from a sheep called Delilah….Delilah is a Manx Loaghtan/Zwartbles cross and lives on the Norfolk/Suffolk border out near Bungay (so about 12/13 miles from Norwich)….these are real wisps of wool, sheepy smelling and slightly oily to the touch.  So I also bought a 100g bag of these to play on my spinning stick with…..it’s really lovely to know not only where the wool came from and it’s breed but also knowing Delilah’s name makes these fat squishy sausages even more special.

All of the ladies from the various Norfolk guilds were so incredibly kind with their time and patience, answering my many and numerous questions…so a huge huge thank you once more especially to Lizbeth and also to Jen Monahan who took this picture of me attempting to spin and Lizbeth supervising, and put up with all my chatter….and there’s a whole heap of pictures just here showing what a fantastic display the Norfolk Guilds put on at the forum during Maker’s Month…..




2 thoughts on “handspun spun and sheepy, the pleasures of wool from just down the road….

    1. Thanks Sharon, it’s not up to much at the moment. I like that you can’t really rush working with the stock, slow and steady, gentle ryhthmic movements…and of course Bernard keeps wanting to help, so from time to time a little paw darts out and waves in the air at the rotating spinning stick x

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