Monday, November 17, 2008

The Spinners of Ballinagree, Some Alpaca Fleece, And A Yarnslayer

Had a really nice happening here recently. Deirdre (still blogless, but on Ravelry as Deedledum) contacted me about a group getting together in the village of Ballinagree, some five or so miles from me, on Wednesday nights. Spinning, no less! So I tucked the little Orkney into the passenger seat of the jeep, fastening its safety belt carefully, and headed off.

Bumpy and twisty are the roads 'twixt Macroom and Ballinagree, and even those of us accustomed to the corkscrewing of laneways originally designed and built by wandering cows can find it difficult to navigate on a dark evening with mist drifting and eddying in the headlights. On more than one occasion I was grateful of the tight belt holding little Orkney safe.

But we got there in the end. And look at this wonderful sight! (It might not seem unusual to those of you in more enlightened countries, but here in Ireland, where the prejudice against traditional crafts is still rampant, you can take it from me that it is indeed wonderful.) That's Deirdre, who's teaching the spinning session, on the left there, trying out the bright blue wheel (which, she says, works surprisingly well considering the layers of paint that had been slapped on it by someone more interested in a decoration than a working wheel, and next to her is Nora who told me that her life's ambition is to have a large and happy group in Ballinagree practising all kinds of crafts, from spinning and weaving to knitting, crochet, felting and whatever turns them on. Good for you, Nora! You deserve success and I for one am going to do all I can to help. On the right is Nora's sister, Eileen, who is eager to learn the magic of turning fleece into fibre. I think the blue wheel is Nora's, the others were brought by the very helpful and extremely enabling Deirdre (who spent three years in New Zealand, much of it in a spinning guild, so she knows more than most of us here about the craft). That's my Haldane Orkney on the right in front.

It's the very first time I've had a happy evening with other fibre fanatics right here in my home region and I hope it is the first of many such.

There was another pleasant surprise. Nora turned out to be someone I'd been trying to track down for a couple of years, ever since I'd heard that a local farm was going into the breeding of alpacas. It was Nora and her husband, no less! What is more, believe it or not, she pressed upon me a large bagful of alpaca clip. 'We're breeding them to sell to people who want to deal in selling the fibre, not do that ourselves,' she explained, 'and I'd be happy to know that someone was making use of this. You're welcome to it.'

Readers, what would you have done? Probably the same as me - sunk to your knees in giddy gratitude while reaching out to close your fists on the sack of fibre with a Kildare man's grip. When the evening was over (home-made cakes and tea!), I bore it home in triumph.

Sitting down by the fire and telling DH of the evening's events, I heard a strange thumping noise in the corner where I'd left the sack. Surely to heaven there hadn't been a small farm animal or pest inadvertently left inside it? We went to investigate.

Somebody had unerringly scented the air, registered a new arrival, and set out to track it down. Muffy the Yarnslayer rides again!

'Muffy, come out here this instant,' I called sternly (ineffectually trying to restrain the laughter).

What? I'm busy here!

She rushed in again. In fact she disappeared entirely, and thumps, crashes, bangs came from inside the sack. Then quite suddenly she burst into view, eyes blazing, teeth bared, fragments of blameless, innocent alpaca fleece clenched in her jaws.

Will you look at the cut of that? Should this dog be labelled Pernicious Pekingese - Handle With Care, or not?

Yes, the precious sack of alpaca is on a safely high shelf now, awaiting preparation. There is a goodish amount of both white and that nice light brown in there. Any advice on how to prepare for spinning would be welcomed. Up to now, I've only seen alpaca in elegant combed top or final yarn form. And on the original owner of course. This early on in the spinning game is entirely new to me.

The passion for spinning has been quite revived in fact chez Celtic Memory. Many years ago it was lived, dreamed, fantasised, worked on nonstop. Then other aspects of fibrecraft took over again for a while. Now it's spinning's turn again and about time too. The little Orkney wheel was feeling neglected. And lonely.

Which is the reason I've just thought up for justifying buying it a companion. An enchanting little Kromski, all the way from Poland, carved by traditional craftsmen. The Mazurka, to be precise.

This is Mr. Kromski's picture, not mine. I took it from his website. But isn't that a fairytale little wheel? Wouldn't you want it in your sitting room?

I've ordered mine through the lovely Margie at Moondance Wools in the Scottish Borders. Hope it gets here soon, Margie - and don't forget to send me some samples of your fibres too. I can foresee lots of Net purchasing activity in the months to come. In the meantime, Celtic Memory is on tenterhooks (a good weaving term, that!) for baby Mazurka to arrive. What should she be called? Angeluna, you're the expert on the Almanach de Gotha. Got any good Polish nobility names? Something that calls up the image of an exquisite lady spinning and singing softly to herself in the solar of her castle?

Maybe I should make her a little mat, or a little quilt or something, to welcome her arrival? What do you think?

The weather is generally mizrubble here at the moment, typical for November, with rain and wind predominating. Had a window of opportunity yesterday, with a few hours of sunshine, so skeined and washed some of that lovely rare Italian mousse fingering weight for nice gift kits I've put on eBay tonight.

The idea is to provide two complementing colourways in one nice little toning fabric project bag, for people to either give as a gift or use to create gifts for the holiday season. As is, this yarn makes heavenly lacy scarves and shawls; doubled, it's divine for neckwarmers and hats. I've put 600m of each of the two colours in the bags. 1200 metres should be enough for most things, shouldn't it? From left to right, they are Moss & Lichen, Spice Market, Woodsmoke, and Blue Lagoon.

Here's Blue Lagoon in its kit bag. You can't quite see, but the bag has little carry handles in the same material. Sweet. I've called them Merino Mousse Medley Kits. (Ed, later: Changed that to Shawl/Scarf Kits, as I thought that might make it easier to find for those hunting for such things.)

Must go write up some pieces for tomorrow. And work a little on the Noro cardigan (third time of frogging, fourth and hopefully last time of knitting), do a little more spinning on that nice Blue Faced Leicester from Craftspun Yarns, and catch up on some reading.

Yikes, have you realised that Yuletide is almost round the corner? And Celtic Memory vowed she'd be well ahead this year...


Anonymous said...

Muffy, the Yarnslayer, indeed - how did you keep from rolling on the floor? I'd have totally cracked up. She almost looks like you might be able to spin her! I've been lucky that our resident critters haven't shown much interest in the yarn or fiber.

Jean said...

The yarnslayer is hilarious, I am glad you noticed in time to save your precious Alpaca. The spinning wheel looks divine, I wouldn't dare have one with the three standards I have, I shudder to think what would happen to it during one of the escapades. They are very good at knocking over furniture during their play time. I will send you a link on someone who may be able to answer questions for you.

Unknown said...

Oh, I'm so glad you got a Mazurka. I love mine. I received my Mazurka several years ago as a b'day present and I have loved her ever since.

Enjoy the rescued Alpaca. It's really quite lovely to spin with!

Ruth said...

Muffy needs a new name since she is now a Yarnslayer!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it grand to be spinning with others! Now spinning will consumer your thoughts and dreams.

Don't you know, Muffy was jus' trying to comb the alpaca for you!

Kate said...

Tell Deirdre we miss her in New Zealand (and are secretly hoping she'll come back)! Glad to see she's still enabling.

Angeluna said...

I LOVE that Yarnslayer!!! She makes me laugh and laugh. If ever I come to visit, you had better check my bags on departure as, fair warning, I might try to import Miss Muffy.

How fabulous that you can spin in Ballinagree with like-minded souls. I know how much this means to you. I would lay money on it that you can find a way to spearhead a movement back to Ireland's traditional crafts. Everyone the world over expects to visit Ireland and find woolly goods from hoof to spinnings to creative designs. And everyone is flabbergasted that it's just not happening. You must stir this pot.

Let's put some names into the hat for that lovely little Kromski. Mafalda, Matylda, Sibilia, Agata,
Agnieszka (Agnes), Aniela (Angela)
Bibiana (Viviana)
Boleslawa (Wilhelmina)
Brygida (Bridget)
Elwira (Elvira)
Elzbieta (Elizabeth)
Genowefa (Genevieve)
Hiacynta, Jacinta (Hyacinthe)Jadwiga (Hedwig, Hattie)
Katarzyna (Catherine)
Leokadia (Laura)
Lidia (Lydia)
Ludwika (Louise)
Pelagia (Pelagia, Paula, Pauline)
Salomeja (Salome)
Teodora, Teofila
Urzula, Waclawa (Violet)
Walburga, Zyta or Zytka,
Wiktorja, Albinka, Balbina, Janufa

Want more????

Anonymous said...

You won't regret your Kromski purchase. I'm a new spinner and I'm in love with my as yet nameless Sonata.

gwtreece said...

Muffy you had me rolling on the floor.

All 9 Muses said...

That's a lovely new wheel you have coming from Messrs Kromski. Last January I bought a Sonata from them (two pedals and it folds up for travel...took it to Cape Breton with me in fact). I've had a lovely Great Walking Wheel for almost 20 years, but until now it has only served as a large decoration in my living room. I really love your Orkney Wheel. Great that you now have the chance to sit in the company of other spinners. It does make the time go far to quickly though, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Love it! love it! love it! There are days when I look just like that! Unfortunately, it's TRUE!

I hope a post regarding the most lovely Tasha will be in the works soon. She wants you to know that she has been supremely patient and does not stoop to using physical exertion (e.g. running in the fields or tearing apart alpaca fiber) to coerce a "dare I say, staged" photo opportunity for this blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo,
I'm a new reader of your blog, love it, love the pictures and love Muffy!
For preparing the alpaca I would just separate the locks and use a flicker, and then spin it from fold. Unless of course you want to mix it with wool or silk on a drumcarder...
Sometimes alpaca can be very dry and difficult to control due to statics, if so spray it very gently with hot water/fabric softener using a fine spray bottle.
Have fun,
Kathe in Denmark

Wudas said...

I have bemoaned the lack of craft people to spend a bit of time with here near a tiny town in Central California.

Muffy is a hoot!

What is a solar in a castle?

Anonymous said...

Love the photos of your wee dog in the alpaca! What great taste she has!

Can I send a big wave and a hug to Deirdre from us all in Christchurch!? WE MISS YOU - come home soon? :)


Cornflower said...

Snap! I was recently given a sackful of "raw" alpaca, Jo, and having not the first clue about any aspect of spinning sought advice on what to do with it. (If you've a moment you can read it here: )
I've yet to tackle mine, but it's glorious black stuff which deserves proper treatment.
Good luck with yours!

Anonymous said...

Muffy looks like a Chinese New Year's dragon in that final photo. If I were an armful of alpaca wool, I'd be hiding from her in a paper bag too.

Windybrook Spinner said...

Beautiful alpaca! Even better that it was free. Congrats.

Charity said...

Jo, your writing is wonderful, as always, but I will admit my mind shut down a bit after hearing about the alpaca! How lovely! :0)

cindyl said...

Do we get to vote for new name? I think Bibiana is absolutely beautiful and very fitting. I also think you should apologize, because now I'm thinking I really need a Kromski to go with my Ashford. As my grandmother used to say, "I'm spending money like a drunk sailor."

Bionic Laura said...

I love your writing Jo. Your dog is brilliant. So funny. In the photo it was hard to see where the fleece ended and the dog began. If Muffy doesn't watch out he'll be spun into yarn!

Spinningfishwife said...

You want to buy something as a welcome pressie for the Mazurka? then get a very large bottle of good oil for her, something like neatsfoot oil. Kromskis need a lot of oiling and the Mazurka is especially thirsty when new. Ask me how I know....I have a first generation Mazurka which is thirty years old if a day, and she still needs oiled every time I use her.(There's a piece about her on my blog if you're interested.

Anonymous said...

For the pretty Kromski, what about Rapunzel?

Anonymous said...

Hi from down under.
It's great to see and hear what our Deirdre is up to. We loved her down this side and know you will love her too- she's a great addition to a guid of spinners!I'd be watching her though with that blue wheel- looks a bit outrageous !!!

knititch said...

congratulations with the wheel and everything. i am green with envy about everything. i want to spin too.

KiniaCat Crafts said...

EXCELLENT Pictures! Well done! I have to agree with the "Chinese Dragon" description of the Yarnslayer in the last picture.
I'm not a spinner, but your comments regarding prepping the Alpaca made me think of an entry by the Yarn Harlot:
Enjoy the Alpaca and thank you for this grand blog! KiniaCat

tia o'c said...

Beautiful yarn, lovely colors!!