I had not learned to spin the last time the Highland Guild hosted Wingham Woolwork, but having visited the wonderland of Wingham at Wentworth a couple of times, I was very keen to see the travelling shop. I had the whole weekend reserved, the Saturday for trying out the various fibres available, and the Sunday for the workshop with Ruth.
I was amazed at the quantity and variety of fibre, yarns, books and other equipment that the Goughs manage to fit into their travelling van. I did a couple of hours on admissions duty, but the whole of the rest of the day was not long enough to try out everything on offer. I did manage to decide on some favourites from the day and laid in a fair supply of Gotland, a range of viscose fibres and a good selection of the different silk and silk blends. I went home on Saturday eagerly awaiting the workshop next morning.
Ruth started us off trying to spin our finest single from a merino silk top. I was all fingers and thumbs and couldn’t join my yarn onto my leader, but eventually I got over my nerves and settled down to spinning across the full width of the top. Ruth showed us how it was possible to spin from left to right and then turn the top and repeat, or to spin to and fro across the top without turning, but most of us needed to stop our wheel, turn the fibre and start again at the left. This was a new technique for me, but one I enjoyed practising.
We put our merino silk singles aside for later in the day and turned our attention to wrapping. We were given a camel and silk blended top and a commercial core to try this. Again Ruth’s demonstration looked effortless, but we were to find that the practice is harder than it looks however with much patient coaching we all managed to produce a reasonable sample. Ruth also explained how to full it – with a potato masher in hot water – I tried this out later at home and was pleased by how well it worked.
Ruth gave us very valuable advice on plying and taught us to Inca ply so we could make samples of more exotic fibres we were about to move on to. Cashmere and silk proved to be my favourite of these, but the yak and silk and straight cashmere were also very nice to handle.
In the afternoon Ruth had a real treat for us. We were given some very short carded fibre to practice longdraw, then we each got a small sample of vicuna to see what we could do with it. Never having handled vicuna before, I was astonished at how very short staple this fibre is. It was almost impossible to hold, but with a longdraw technique, over a distance of a few inches it was possible to spin and ply a short length. It was my most prized sample of the weekend, and certainly the most difficult thing I have ever tried to spin. If you want a real challenge, try some vicuna.
We went back to our merino silk from the morning and with commercial core and lock yarns, we had a try at boucle. Mine needs a lot more work before it is fit to be seen. Finally we tried trapping noil between two commercial yarns. I was pleased with that and can see the potential for some interesting fancy yarns using a trapping technique.
Throughout the day Ruth proved to be a fount of spinning knowledge, I learnt as much to help with my basic spinning and plying as I did on how to spin the more exotic fibres and the fancy yarns. Ruth is a great teacher and made the day really good fun as well as highly instructive. Can’t wait for my next chance to attend one of her workshops.