Tonight at midnight, is the start of Spinzilla 2016 – an international challenge where teams and individuals compete to see who can spin the most yarn in a week.
I entered in 2014, on impulse, and because last minute, didn’t have much time to prepare fibre, and lost a day to kids’ appointments, but managed to finish second in the Rogue category, falling short of the Rogue winner by 30-something yards. A few minutes’ spinning! Which made me determined to enter again some time. Looking at the mileages of last year’s faster spinners, I know I can’t pull those kind of numbers, so am competing with myself but also seeing how I do against other Europeans (not about to undo the habit of a lifetime – thinking of myself as European!)
Was thinking about doing Spinzilla last year, but was still reeling from the shock of a dear friend dying in the summer, so decided against putting myself through the added stress. This year, I thought I’d enter but this time in one of the three UK teams, the one run by Katie of Hilltop Cloud Fibres (Team Hilltop Cloud, or “the dragons” because our symbol is a beautiful Welsh dragon!)
I’ll be spinning a Castlemilk Moorit fleece from our flock at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming, and some Norfolk Horn shearling from the flock in our parish and the next parish. In case that’s not enough, I have a batt of beautiful madder and weld dyed Eider fluff from the talented Natural Born Dyers bought as compensation to myself, for utterly failing for the first time in my life this year, to dye a nice, clean yellow with my own weld.
The Norfolk Horn is dyed with both natural and acid (kenanthrol) dyes. Of course, I had to use acid dyes for magenta – a nod to my relations, the Dawsons of Huddersfield who were amongst the first people to develop that colour as a chemical dye. The natural dyes were my muddy goldenrod and weld dye baths which I wasn’t thrilled with, but will probably, like all natural dyes, look suddenly nice when used in combination with some other naturally dyed colour.
I’ve been carding on and off, most of September just losing a week or so to prepare for our demo at the Masham Sheep Fair, last weekend. During Spinzilla 2014, I ran out of carded rolags after a day or so, leaving me frantically drum carding during Spinzilla, losing much of my spinning time to carding. Despite all the work this time, I still suspect I’m going to run out of carded fibre in maybe two days, and switching to spinning combed tops will inevitably demand more of a worsted style of spinning, and slow things down… Despite having to spin a lot worsted-ish last time, I did manage to clock up over a mile spun each day and 2 miles on a good day… (I didn’t keep detailed notes, so am determined to put that right again this time, too!)
I don’t know how much time I’ll get to document what I’m doing over the week on the blog but will try and get back here.
I’ll be spinning almost entirely on my 1994 Timbertops Chair Wheel as Betty, my poorly little Lonsdale, has gone to Joan and Clive at Woodland Turnery to be mended. Will be getting her back at Kendal Wool Gathering, at the end of the month. The Chair wheel is accelerated by a second drive wheel, and I usually have it on one of the smaller whorls – not a spinner who cares too much about ratios – I just do what works. Sometimes getting hung up on the technicalities sucks the joy out of spinning and for me, spinning has always been about fun and relaxation. Not that there’s anything relaxing about Spinzilla, the way I do it! Need to find a big, fat audiobook ASAP and luckily have lots of TV box sets available, one way or another, so it will be kind of relaxing.
Spinzilla is about the joy of spinning – plain fun, really. But also it’s a good time to challenge ourselves as spinners; try a new technique, or push past a comfort zone. For me, the challenge is simply to see how much I can spin English longdraw in a day, and see if I can then figure out if it’s comparable to the yardages spun in the past. What is a realistic figure? Also I want to see how the Norfolk Horn spins. It is thought to be one of the oldest British breeds of sheep and was probably the mainstay of the worsted industry in parts of medieval England (despite it not being a longwool, apparently it was used a lot for the finer, high-end cloths). I’ll be spinning it woollen not worsted-ish. I will give myself plenty of breaks but it is a brilliant excuse to not have to cook or bake or do any housework for a week, and as such, an opportunity not to be missed.
Happy spinning, everyone doing Spinzilla!