I pack the van to head up to Yarndale tomorrow, so today is all about taking it easy. I try to get most of the show prep done well in advance. Going to a show is exhausting enough without having spent the week before working all hours to get the stock ready.
So today I joined Mum and Dad on their morning dog walk. We went up in to the forest 10 minutes from the house. Autumn is here, and the colours were beautiful.
The trees are still pretty green, but the Rosebay Willowherb or Fireweed has lost it's magenta flowers and is now looking very autumnal. Of course once the camera was out I started spotting colours...
Then when we got home the light was co-operating to capture Big Bird's plumage and it's lovely iridescence...
Looks like I might be doing a bit of work this morning after all. The siren song of October's gradient packs is calling.
Last year when I got my Hansen mini spinner it became pretty clear that it was going to become my go-to portable spinning wheel. I've since taken it all around the country in my trusty wooden box!
I can tuck everything I need inside the box, and have it set up to use as a lazy kate, and it will also act as a table for me to put the Hansen on whilst I spin.
Overtime however, my box has started to look a bit tatty, and I fancied smartening it up a little.
On the top... a bit of inspiration, a reminder that when we sit down to spin we create wonderful things from unpromising beginnings.
On the first side, a reminder of the first spinning wheels, the Great Wheel, which is being "helped" by a version of Viola the cat. A squirel up the tree, and a Tawny Owl watch on.
On this side there's a version of Flossy the Hilltop Cloud sheep, and some of the ducks from a local farmyard.
On this side a Welsh dragon is acting tough, but is being faced down by one of my cockerels. A stylised version of Cav is hiding in the tree roots.
Finally we've got Gwen the dog channelling her inner wolf and howling at the moon. We regularly get herons flying up the valley so I had to include one of those, and in a touch of whimsey the fish is acting as the fisherman.
I painted the box in 2 coats of the same Soft Sheen Vinyl Emulsion I used on my stair wall, and then sketched the rough design in pencil. After that I drew over it in permanent marker and went back and rubbed out the pencil where it showed through. It ended up needing a coat of varnish because permanent marker turns out not to be water resistant!
I've now got an even more Snazzy box to take my Hansen out and about in, and overtime I look at it I'll get some little reminders of home.
The box, in case you're wondering came from this Ebay shop.
At the end of August you can hardly miss the signs for local shows happening around our area. Almost every village holds some sort of local event, all based around a classic template of classes for sheep, produce, handicrafts, and some sort of entertainment in a "main ring"
They're always a bit of good fun to go around, and usually we try and enter things in our local show but this year time got away from me and I didn't manage to rustle together any entries, must try harder for next year.
I did however manage to pop in to one of the other shows.
The classes at our local shows are eclectic, and varied...
Best Silage, and best sod of meadow in particular always make me smile.
I'm also rather partial to the tallest nettle competition.
And who can resist the charms of the oddest shaped vegetable class.
Somehow, these Dahlias have survived the ravages of a truly dreadful summer, wet and wind have left most of our flower flattened.
The children's classes have a huge number of entries, and you can be judged on everything from decorated cupcakes, to the way you write an address on an envelope.
Add in the most catastrophic falconry displays I've ever seen, and you have a cracking afternoon out. Three falcons, none of whom did what they were meant to do. One disappeared in to the trees on one side of the show ground, the other did one circuit and found a tree in the opposite direction to the first missing bird. The final bird ran around the arena stubbornly refusing to fly after the lure, and when it finally did take flight made it as far as the roof of the marquee.
Sometimes you get the pleasure of trying out something a little bit special. A piece of our social history. Special thanks to wrigglefingers who owns the wheel, and is kind enough to let me play on her.
Meet Wilhelmina. She's a sort of form of Pendulum wheel, though given the arm swings from below rather than above pendulum is the wrong word to use. The other night we settled on Inverted Pendulum wheel, but further discussion on Ravelry reveals that it's true name is a New Dominion Wheel, patented in Canada in 1870.
Pendulum Wheels were a development on the Great Wheel, they allowed the spinner to be seated while spinning, and extended the length of the long draw which makes the thread more even in twist levels.
In this wheel though instead of the flyer arm being suspended from above, the pivot point is at the base. As ever, a video speaks louder than a thousand pictures, here's Wilhelmina in action. I'm definitely not brave enough to be filmed spinning on her yet, I naturally long draw with my right hand, and while I can do it left handed I am very rusty. Judith in these videos does historical re-enactment, and is an expert on a Great Wheel. Give me time though... because spinning on Wilhelmina is joyous and such fun.
At the base is still a foot lever, but instead of pressing down on it you slide your foot away from you, and then draw it back when you want to wind your length of yarn on to the spindle. Spinning on it is not dissimilar to patting your head and rubbing your tummy... find once you get in the rhythm, pause for a moment and actually think about what you're doing and all is lost!
Wilhelmina was built by the late Bill Gaylor who was a retired Switchgear Engineer. He built quite a few unique wheels, believe it or not this isn't the strangest of them. Jill owns another one of his wheels that's even more fabulous. What I particularly love about Wilhelmina is the obvious use of found bits of wood that have been squirrelled away for the perfect use...
The main base is very clearly a table leg, possibly off an old pub table judging by the colour and weigh of it. The swinging arm looks pretty much like a broom handle, or maybe a very long length of dowel. The knobs look suspiciously like drawer handles to me!
Even more wonderfully, the spindle still contained some yarn spun by Bill himself.
It has all the hallmarks of a length of yarn spun while demonstrating, we know Bill was an expert spinner from the other bobbins we have that are from the other wheel, this one clearly has bits where people have stopped and started, and he's discussed how the wheel works.
We're trying to work out how to get Wilhelmina out and about once more, for all her size she's actually pretty portable as she dismantles quite easily. First event could well be the Montgomeryshire Guild Open Day on November 14th, but we need to do some planning first.
The UK has a greta history of independent wheel makers, and Dot from YarnMaker is trying to build up a bit more of a database about them. If you own a 20th century British made wheel I'm sure she'd love to hear from you.
On a personal note I'm trying to find out more about my Easy Spin Wheel for the website,
It appears in a book by Eileen Hobden from the 1980’s, but at present I don’t have a makers name, though Eileen was a member of East Sussex Guild, does anyone know anything more?
Hilltop Cloud- Spin Different
Beautiful fibre you'll love to work with.
VAT Reg- 209 4066 19
Dugoed Bach, Mallwyd, Machynlleth,
Powys, SY20 9HR