Not, I hasten to add, to get married.
The countryside round here is filled with small chapels. Many locals were Methodists, and going to l chapel regularly was a key part of life. Of course there were far more people in the rural communities 150 years ago, when all the labour was still done by hand. As a result many of those chapels are now slowly disintegrating.
This one has become a farm building, and is used each winter to store hay.
When the hay is removed however the inside is stunning.
A beautiful shade of turquoise with some lovely stencilling, not at all what you expect from a Methodist chapel in a remote little valley.
Each and every single fleece is graded by a specialist. It takes 5 years to train how to sort wool to the standard required. Once the wool sheets have been unpacked and graded the fleeces are stacked in to these blue bins. When a bin is full it's loaded up in to the red machines in the background, and they compress the wool in to the giant green bales in the background. It's these that are sold in the global auctions, each containing a huge number of fleeces.
We're a hill farming area, so unsurprisingly there were a lot of coarser fleeces, but mixed in were some real treasures. Our fleeces were donations, so we were quickly ushered past the BFL bins, they're too valuable to give away. I don't think we did too badly though...
This was a bit full of beautiful Welsh Mule Hogg fleeces (i.e. the first shearing of last years lambs). A mule is a sheep from crossing a BFL Ram with a Hill Breed Ewe, and if you can get a fleece from a young sheep like these then the fibre is really stunning.
We also collected a few more breeds that are typical of the area. These are now all washed, and displayed so that people can handle real wool, and see what it feels like.
The depots are open to the general public, and if you go for a visit explaining you're a hand spinner you're in for a real treat. Probably best to ring first and check it's a convenient time, and if you get a group together you can often get a guided tour.
In the Newtown depot there was even a bin of coloured Shetland pulled to one side specifically to sell to hand spinners who call in, as the depot manager knows he can get a better price that way, because coloured wool isn't generally wanted by the large scale commercial buyers at auction.
It really has been a non-stop month. I've travelled up and down the country, and seen an awful lot of spinners!
I'm currently enjoying a couple of weeks at home, before I get to go on my longest road trip of the year, up to the Scottish Highlands for a weekend workshop.
They've spun crepe yarns & textured corespun...
Learnt how to do beehives, or how to add beads and felt shapes, plus lots of other types of yarns.
A roomful of spinners all concentrating on learning new techniques is a very inspiring place.
There's also been a hot and steamy dyeing workshop, held on one of the hottest weekends of the year, where people learned all about the magic of silk dyeing.
The after that some serious enabling went on...
I was very honoured to be invited along to the first ever Yarningham where I taught a group of 8 lovely ladies how to drop spindle.
We used a whole variety of fibres, from the "I don't want to spoil it so I'll use undyed natural shetland" to the "hand dyed loveliness". I've taught small groups at my guild for years, but it's the first time teaching at a festival and felt very different to my usual show experience when I'm there selling things!
I love sharing the craft with others, and I'm certainly going to get lots of practise over the next few months as I'm demonstrating at http://www.newtownheritage.co.ukwww.newtownheritage.co.uk on nearly every Saturday in August and September.
I don't teach workshops at home, but do travel to pretty much anywhere in the country... Just get in touch if your local guild would like a visit.