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!


A Virtual Trip to Harris!

After an effective and interesting AGM on the 18th February 2017, we had been promised a presentation tour of Harris by Diana Barclay and Ann Evans after their various trips to the Hebrides. This tour included an array of wonderful materials and artefacts for us to look at and examine. img_4976.jpg

Both Ann and Diana had been on Harris at the same time and they were able to share their experiences in a lively and stimulating way – so much so that I really wanted to book my flight to Harris that afternoon!


The talk included much about the weaving and textile industry and its history but also included information about the way of life on the islands. Apparently the children’s playground on Harris has a sign to tell children they must be in by 9pm each night, and that the park is closed on Sundays! Ann informed the group that “nothing was ever busy…so if you want a real rest this is the place to go!” It sounds wonderful, as did the comments about the whisky distillery! Definitely a place I would like to visit.

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Diana kindly brought her copy of Ian Lawson’s wonderful book “From the Land comes the cloth” along for us to see. This is so much more than a ‘coffee-table’ book as the images are just amazing. It is expensive and not stocked by local book shops because of it, however it is stunning. The images are beautiful and reflect the colours of the landscape so well. They clearly show how inspiring the place is, not just for the weavers but for the artists also!

The presentation included information about local artist, places to eat, the use of Gaelic and the terrain. Certainly as good as any tourist information centre….and we had personal photographs, wools and fibres, weaving samples and made up items. Fabulous!!

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Thank you so much Ann and Diana for such a great presentation!