Spinning Open Day March 2018


During a very snowy, blizzardy kind of day in March 2018,  Durham Guild held their Spinning Open Day at St Oswald’s. Thankfully we had many visitors and regulars turn up to enjoy a feast of fibre and food!

Never let it be said that Northerners are daunted by the weather!


Our guild is lucky enough to own quite a lot of equipment to be able to demonstrate our crafts to others, and we had our usual “sale table” of wool, fibres, products and equipment on offer.

With it being a spinning day, of course, we had many spinners and an array of gorgeous spinning wheels. I have always been struck by how beautiful, and how different the wheels are and our open-day was no exception.

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We were delighted to have the company of the wonderful Brian Shaw who brought the most exquisite Pouncy Four-Leg Wheel, complete with yarn winder and tensioned lazy-kate which was made for him many years ago. It was extraordinary to look at even when it wasn’t moving, but once he started spinning we were all captivated.


Brian is very well known amongst Northern crafters and has been spinning for 31 years. He had agreed to give us a lesson and demonstration of Long-Draw Spinning and we weren’t disappointed.

Long Draw

The key to Long Draw Spinning success is the preparation. Brian brought with him some examples of fibres in various stages of prep and was able to tell us how he and his wife prepared their fleeces at home. For the day Brian had Shetland, White-Faced Woodland and Goathland Roving tops to work with. He showed us how to make the perfect Rolag. For Long Draw in particular the rolags need to be of uniform density and length and the fibres must be allowed to “flow”! To achieve this Brian recommended that the ideal staple length to make the rolag is 3 inches, suggesting trimming the base and tips if need be! The process needs to be controlled, combing out the tips and root, and even processing individual locks. As the fibre needs to move and flow it requires some lanolin, or oil which is often fully removed during the washing process. Brian suggested adding oil back by adding baby oil via a dropper before the fibre is carded…..oh, and don’t overload the carder!!

Brian’s rolags were like gossamer – fine and translucent and it was a pleasure to watch him make one using the back of his carders to consolidate and lengthen the fibre before spinning.

The control he demonstrated with stopping and starting the wheel, whilst explaining everything his hands were doing as he worked really slowly for us to watch was completely breath taking. Once he was spinning at normal speed it was truly amazing to watch.


Long Draw is self-drafting and Brian demonstrated exactly how to move his hands. The left controlling the twist in small openings, the right allowing the draft. The key, apparently is to coordinate the foot with the right hand – adjusting the wheel’s tension. If the wheel band is too tight it draws on too quickly, if too slack the twist rushes in too fast. Watching the video back is a total pleasure. (Check our FaceBook page @DurhamGuild for the video clip)

We had a number of established spinners who had avoided long-draw in the past who tried once watching Brian – and they succeeded. Brian and Elsie were so generous with their time, even helping members make rolags suitable for long-draw.

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Our lunch, as always with a shared table, was fun, delicious and full of gossip. Our room was busy and had that delightful buzz of good conversation and good company.

Durham Guild would like to thank Brian for taking the time to come along to our gathering and share his extraordinary knowledge with us.


What a fabulous day! Come and join us for our next gathering. You would be most welcome and we’d love to see you!


Old Year, New Year, More yarn!

Fibre is a strange substance.

It should come with a warning – “Beware of possible addiction!” There is surely something about the threaded, fluffy stuff that makes us crafters so keen to complete the next project; so keen to learn the new skill? It is one of life’s mysteries!

2017 has been a lovely year for the Durham Guild with much fun, chatter and laughter along the way.P611062520170611 - Copy

We have welcomed many new members and experienced all kinds of fibre madness including indigo dyeing, needle felting, demonstrating at Beamish, Broom House Farm and Saltholme events.

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We have made felted vessels, used peg looms with children, watched sheep being sheared (and obviously bought fleece at the same time!), fought to control silk to spin fine threads, exhibited wonderful work in various places and talked woolly words with so many people.

2017 culminated with a fashion showing at our Christmas gathering where members of the guild shared and modelled what we had been making.

It was a warming, welcoming conclusion to a very positive year.guild-7523

Our very talented members showed us the following finished items – all amazing and truly inspiring!

Angela made a felted pebble rug. It is a shame you can’t feel it! It is fabulous.


Anne created a stunning beaded purse, a beautiful waist coat and felted hat.

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Douglas demonstrated his weaving talents by showing us the Durham Tartan he used to cover a stool, showing us how the colours have changed with a different wool batch, and also a piece of tartan he wove based on ancient fragments found in Asia.

Geni delighted us by modelling her coat, jacket and shawl. Breath-taking talent!

Amazingly this hat is made using plastic bin liners! Who’d have thought something so lovely could be made from something so boring!IMG_7561

Lace weight hand-spun yarn became a beautiful shawl and gloves. So intricate and so delicate!guild-7573guild-7576


Sue’s talents know no bounds. Her weaving is stunning and her cushion such fun. We were all amazed at the quality of the appliqué to produce an apron dress illustrated with rabbits and hares. Wow!

Jean’s cardigan, which she designed and made, was lovely. We couldn’t believe it when she said she wasn’t happy with it and it would probably be unpicked to start again!

Our youngest Guild Member gave us a great talk about the development of her skeleton waist coat, her shawl and her socks. Amazingly she doesn’t use a pattern! What talent!

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This gorgeous hand-spun yarn produces this delightful scarf. What a yummy colour!

All told, these items demonstrate only a few of the talents of our guild members. One of the nicest things about Durham Guild is that members are so willing to help, teach and support others to keep these crafts alive. Not only that, spending a day with these lovely people is a treat for the soul. There is little nicer than good company, good conversation, and inspirational people! 2018 will be brilliant. Come join us!

For the Love of Fibre….


This time last week I was spending a lovely day with my friends from the Durham Guild working on my weaving at Saltholme RSPB Reserve on Teesside as part of their Woolly Weekend. It was one of those days that will stick in my memory, not just because of the crafts and fibre events but because of the people.

I sat next to a small boy for a while who was being guided to complete a piece of weaving by the talented and lovely resident weaver on the Saltholme staff. He was fully engaged in the task in front of him and was loving the experience of producing something tangible as the fabric took form. His guide admired his work and said it was material, “just like the material of your T-shirt, but not quite so fine”. As a retired primary school teacher I recognised the look on the boy’s face. It made me fill up (I can be a bit soppy!). It was the look of a “penny-drop” moment, one of realisation that he understood something for the first time, a classic “Ah-haaaaaa!” moment. It was joyful.

Children don’t realise where things come from; don’t know how something is made; are not aware that their surroundings are manipulated by humans……and why would they? It is the job of the teacher to help them sort out the links. This little boy suddenly realised that his T-shirt was indeed woven, and he pulled it out in front of him to have a closer look. The beaming face was such a reward! Saltholme’s staff member did a marvellous job! It is moments like this that feed the Durham Guild members’ need to promote the crafts they love. And it isn’t just the children who reward us like this.


These two ladies waited patiently for the children to finish their pieces so they could “have a go” during our demonstration days at Beamish Museum at the beginning of the summer. They took their small piece of weaving away with as much delight as the children did!

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One little boy, about 5 years old, watched me spinning at Beamish. He became very excited as the wheel started up. The bobbin, to him, seemed to disappear as it was going so fast! It was lovely to see. He and his class of school friends had never seen a fleece before, nor did they realise that the piece that they were feeling was full of fibres that eventually became the yarn that made their clothes. The whole process had been a mystery up until that point…if, in fact, they had ever thought of it at all before! Lovely moments.

I have been thinking lately of my own love of all things crafty….and in particular, my love of Fibre. I have always done crafty things – made my own clothes, done crochet and knitting, made things for myself and as gifts. I have never really contemplated why it gives me such a lift, and why it has become so important to me. One of my none-fibre-addict friends told me last week that I “would be alright in a zombie apocalypse” as I knew so many traditional crafts! This made me chuckle as I’d rather not be in any situation where my sock-knitting skills would be needed by survivors of such an extreme!!

Sock knitting addiction
Socks – hand knitted

However, I have been thinking of how traditional crafts are everywhere, and becoming more important to other people too. Which is a very good thing!

I saw a set of ancient spinning whorls in a Glasgow Museum recently, and was compelled to photograph them. They are beautiful! I can’t walk past a craft/wool store without stepping inside. I admire the beauty of spindles, knitting needles, stitch markers, sheep-sentries used as door stops, the feel of wool that I can’t resist! A lovely fibre-friend of mine managed to obtain an ancient yarn swift….it had been hiding in her father-in-law’s garage and was discovered today. She was quick to tell me about it, and I was quick to be envious!! Fibre “things” are just wonderful aren’t they?

Yes, I have to admit…… I am becoming quite an addict! There is no cure that I know of…..but there are worse vices to have for sure.


I never intended to take up spinning, or weaving for that matter, but the people of Durham Guild have welcomed me in with open arms and have been so willing to show me how to improve my skills. I still regard myself as a novice but I love it. One thing for sure is that belonging to a Guild is brilliant. Guilds are full of people who love the crafts, who love fibre art and who want to promote it. It doesn’t matter if you are not skillful, they are so happy to share and to teach. Guilds are not elitist in the slightest. I would encourage anyone even slightly interested in traditional crafts to find their nearest and join up!

At Saltholme I acquired a full fleece for myself, as their Woolly Weekend included sheep shearing demonstrations. Finding the sheep pen close to the visitor centre we found the shearer was busy with traditional clippers when we got there, helping a Hebridean sheep part company with its winter coat. The Hebridean is a small black sheep breed with fierce looking horns. She was being held gently and the shearing was taking quite a while…but the fleece was gorgeous.

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Unfortunately that fleece had been reserved already. Thankfully I was able to watch as a sister sheep was shorn beside her using electric clippers – taking a fraction of the time and I was happy to buy it there and then. Warm weather has allowed me to wash this and I am part way through carding it…..along with more fleece….ready to spin, ply and then make up into something! I am excited to follow through from sheep to garment. I will wait to see what the yarn turns out like before deciding what to make. What a delightful process for sure!

Durham Guild members get all over, and do all kinds of things. Workshops recently have included making felted-vessels. We helped children make felt at Saltholme, along with peg-loom weaving. If you visit Saltholme don’t forget to look out for the crafted house made of samples created by the Guild. We have demonstrated at Beamish, at Broome Hill Farm, at the World Heritage Visitor Centre in Durham and members have visted St Abbs Wool festival, Woolfest in Cumbria and Edinburgh Yarn Festival…..and more. Fibre is addictive!!

Entries in our visitor book
Visitor comments – Beamish

The Durham Guild meet every month and we have open days for spinning and weaving but everyone is welcome at any event …..come and see us, join in, stay a while and chat…….I hope you do as I am sure you will love the people, the crafts and the fibre as much as I do.

Click here for Durham Guild Diary 2017