Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Calanas Course

Calanas is the Gaelic term for spinning or working with wool. I've been knitting for a few years now, using a variety of yarn from cheap acrylic to breathtakingly expensive merino. I had never considered making yarn myself until a colleague passed me a flyer for a Calanas course.

Gratuitous Herdwicks being photogenic in the Lake District

The course takes place at Whitmuir; a local organic farm. We start with soup at the farm restaurant then get stuck into the task of the week. The first week we met the flock (one of whom escaped...) and got our hands dirty with a stack of fleeces. With tangled and dirty parts removed (and a surprising amount of thorns) we washed and dried the fleeces. The following week we started carding the wool.

Giant sheep or tiny man?

Last night was our first attempt at spinning. I found it quite surprising the number of people who happened to have spinning wheels already - at least half of the group! Now for an admission; I signed up for this course thinking it would be fun and relaxing to learn a new skill. Spinning is not relaxing. Spinning is frustrating, complicated and addictive. I had thought I had reasonable hand-foot coordination, it turns out I can make my hands and feet work together but can't breathe at the same time. Hopefully next time I'll manage to get into a rhythm without getting so over excited that I let go and it all goes wrong. I've also attempted spinning on a spindle - slightly less stressful as it's much slower. Not necessarily easier though.

In the end I was very pleased to realise that somewhere in all the confusion I had managed to spin a significant amount of fleece into something approximating wool:

Wool spun on a wheel and a spindle

I can't wait for next time!

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