The Donegal Spinning Wheel

The Donegal Spinning Wheel In the past few days I became the owner of a Donegal spinning wheel.  It is so called as it is hand crafted in County Donegal by the Shiels family.  They have been making these style wheels for generations, and this one was made in 1988.  I have known of these wheels for years and always thought I would love to have one.  However, the used ones are rare and if you do come across one, the condition is not always great.  This wheel is in very good condition, no broken pieces, no wood worm and it spins as if it were newly made.  Another nice thing about having one of the Shiels’ family wheels is that the current craftsman, Johnny, can repair them and/or make new parts.  In addition to making new wheels, he restores these and other types of spinning wheels.  If you would need his services, you can contact him via his web site:  www.spinningwheels.ie.  There you can find more information about what Johnny does and also a photo gallery of his work.  I’m sure to get years of pleasure using my new/old wheel. I also wanted to show a photo of the ram I have with my sheep.  He is on loan from a friend and was chosen for his fine fleece.  He is a Shetland/Suffolk cross and he and the girls should produce lambs with nice wool.  I am calling him Bo or Beau, short for Rambo.  Beau is very quiet and loves to have his head scratched in the mornings when I go out to check on them.  I have a feeling he... Read More

Preparing to Dye Wool with Lichens

Preparing to Dye Wool with Lichens I intend to do an article about natural dyeing, specifically lichens, but that will have to wait awhile for the results.  Meanwhile, I just received the book, Lichens of Ireland, by Paul Whelan, recommended by one of my workshop students.  It looks to be all you ever wanted to know about lichens, where they can be found in Ireland, and how to respect them when collecting for dyes.  I can’t wait to read it cover to cover and am confident it will be used many times in the future. I just got back from the Knit and Stitch Show in Dublin over the weekend and really had a fun time.  Of course, I refrained from purchasing any yarns, but enjoyed looking and visiting all the stands and exhibitions.  The only place I saw handspun was at the Irish Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers.  And it was nice to catch up with some of the members.  If you would like to follow what they do and perhaps even join see the website:  www.weavespindye.ie. I just saw this poem today and thought it was very appropriate to share with you “woolly” folks: Flowers for a Newborn Child By Claire Beynon It was a cold, drizzly day. Mist nudged up against the windows and doors of the house. I was adding more wood to the fire when I heard a knock at the front door. Judy was standing on the doorstep, wearing her usual faded green sweatpants, a hand-knitted sweater—and a silver tiara. She only wore her tiara on special occasions. She held a large, crumpled plastic bag in her arms.... Read More

Hand Spinning Workshop 2016

Hand Spinning Workshop 2016 Saturday’s beginner’s hand spinning workshop was a great success and the weather even cooperated by being perfect!  There were attendees from all parts of the island and it was great for me to meet such interesting and talented folks. We started the course with types of fleece, sorting, scouring, and preparation for spinning.  Other types of materials sampled were flax, bog cotton and dog fur.  There was a brief discussion on dyeing and the different ways to dye, such as acid chemical, natural and solar.  I learned about lichen and mushroom dyeing from our student, Alex. I’ll be doing a blog on that soon, and his input was very helpful.   Then we saw demos on hand carding, drum carding and using the drop spindle. After a well deserved lunch break, everyone got to work on the spinning wheels.  There were four different wheels available and included traditional, Irish castle wheel, and a contemporary wheel.  Students were encouraged to use any of the materials available and so besides spinning the usual sheep’s wool, we experimented with the bog cotton and flax.  Some interesting yarns resulted. Finally, amid the triumphs and frustrations, everyone went home with a little more knowledge of what it’s like to hand spin and with some of their very own hand spun yarn.  And I’m looking forward to conducting another similar workshop next year, along with perhaps some different ones. This week I’ll be attending the Stitch and Knit show at the RDS Dublin.  The link if you are interested is:  www.theknittingandstitchingshow.com/dublin    Hope to see some of you there! enjoying the sun men can spin... Read More

Hand Spinning Workshop

Hand Spinning Workshop As a reminder, there are still a couple of spaces available for my beginner’s hand spinning workshop taking place on Saturday, 15th October.  We will be covering types of fleece and their preparation, dyeing, spinning with a drop spindle and hands-on wheel spinning.  You will even be able to “meet the wool” – Hyacinth, Rose, Daisy, and their new friend, Beau.  It should be loads of fun as well as informative.  Contact me for any further information and see you... Read More

It’s All About Alpaca

It’s All About Alpaca Recently, for whatever reason, I have been the recipient  of some wonderful Alpaca fleece.  A dear friend had received three and as she knits with alpaca but does not spin, she thought I could make better use of it.  Then a lovely lady in Clare was told by her friend that I may be able to help her turn the fleece from her own animals into yarns.  I went for a visit to her farm, met her and the alpacas, and came home with two large bags of their fleece…one for her yarns and one for my own use. I was hesitant for a very long time to try spinning alpaca, as the fiber is quite different than sheep’s wool.  It is usually short in length (2 – 6 inches) and is hollow like a human hair.  But once I had tried, I loved handling it as it is so soft and spins up sleek and shiny.  The range of natural colors is beautiful…Peruvian mills sort it for 22 shades.  It also takes dyes well and I use the same dyes that I use for my sheep fleece.  It is recommended that alpaca not be washed before spinning, but should be carded with a fine tooth carder.  I also run mine through the Pat Green picker, which opens the locks and rids the fleece of a lot of veg matter. They are not plentiful, but alpaca fleece can be obtained here in Ireland.  Here are a couple of contacts, if you are a spinner and interested in making your own alpaca yarns: www.alpacasofireland.com www.alpacas.ie www.westcorkalpacas.com And if you visit one... Read More

Beginners Hand Spinning Workshop

Beginners Hand Spinning Workshop BEGINNERS HAND SPINNING WORKSHOP WHEN:  SATURDAY 15 OCTOBER  10 AM –  6PM WHERE:  FINFORD HOUSE, TUBBER WHAT:  Learn the basics of hand spinning including preparing fleece, dyeing (natural and chemical) and hands-on spinning instruction Space is limited to 6 and a €20.00 non refundable deposit will be required to hold your place. Total cost is €65.00 and includes all materials, equipment and lunch. Contact Sandra at 065 6890843 or 085 1430650 for questions and/or further information. Last year’s workshop was a great success and I’m sure we will have at least as much fun this year.  I’m looking forward to working with... Read More