On 30th October I went down to Devon for a fantastic fibre-filled weekend organised by Terri.
Friday got off to a slightly inauspicious start, I was 15 mins late to pick up Joanne because I had lost my knitting. I am never exactly at my best in the mornings, and spent 15 mins running round the house trying to find my knitting before I packed everything into the car. In the end I decided to pack the car first, and then search for the knitting afterwards, and went out to the car, to discover my knitting sitting on the passenger seat! I had thrown it out of my bag the previous evening when searching for my purse to pay for petrol and had obviously just left it there over night. At least that mystery was solved!
Luckily we made up time on the way and arrived in Exeter in time to have a cup of tea before picking Rosie up from the station. Then we were all on our way to Sheldon for a weekend full of fibre fun.
Sheldon itself was beautiful. It is a collection of converted buildings that can be hired out, run by a religious community. The ladies running the place were kind and helpful, and the long barn where we were staying was clean and comfortable and had a lovely big sitting space downstairs and beautiful views.
Friday afternoon was workshop time. I taught my emerald beaded bracelet. Joanne and Trudy my victims both made lovely choices of colours of beads and thread, and I am kicking myself that I didn’t photograph their work. I made a bracelet with some interesting matt red beads and ecru thread, something of a colour departure for me, but I like the effect.
I used DMC coton perlé size 8 in colour 739, and about 15g of size 11 seed beads.
After a delicious dinner of homemade soup (3 different kinds!) we sat and knitted and got to know each other. There were 12 of us altogether, 8 of whom stayed over. A really nice number and a lovely group of people.
Saturday dawned with rather atmospheric weather. I wasn’t as quick off the mark as some people so the mist had almost totally dissipated by the time I got my camera out, but you can still see a little bit.
Then it was onto the minibus for a hectic day of enjoying ourselves!
First stop was the David and Charles bookshop where I picked up these goodies:
The sock book is one of those ones where the pages are cut horizontally so you can mix and match your cuffs with your heels and create lots of different socks.
Then it was back in the bus and off to Coldharbour Mill. We had an excellent tour of all the interesting machines in the basement that turn the raw fibre into yarn, given by the man himself, John Arbon. This is the area that the public normally don’t have access to, although they are hoping to be able to create a gantry (is that the right word?) at some point in the future so that you will be able to look down on all the machines and see them in action. The machinery was all fascinating, since starting spinning I have been learning a bit more about how fibre is processed into yarn, and with a lot of the machines you can easily see how they are a vastly scaled up version of how a hand spinner processes their fibre.
The big machine with the person-height drum behind the screens behind John is their carder. You can’t imagine clamping that to the dining table!
John very kindly put each of the machines on briefly for us so we could see what they did, even though they weren’t actually processing any fibre at the time we were there. They tend to do their processing in batches, part of the difficulty is that the machines use an awful lot of power. There are a surprising number of stages that the fibre passes through before becoming yarn. I found the whole experience fascinating to see how it is done on an industrial scale (I do like a nice bit of machinery, coming from a family of engineers 🙂 ).
After our special tour we had a wander round the rest of the museum to see the machinery which is powered by the water wheel. Unfortunately they don’t run the wheel on a saturday but luckily I had actually seen it working when we stopped in on our way on holiday last year.
We had a bit of an opportunity for stash enhancement. I got three lovely skeins of brown 70% alpaca, 30% bluefaced leicester 2-3ply, 100g and 670 yrds per skein.
One skein of a gorgeous green 4ply merino, spun on the water wheel (100g, 370 yrds).
And a yummy wool fat soap which is currently in use in the bathroom.
We had our lunch in the cafe at Coldharbour Mill, and then piled back on the bus to go to Westcott Farm, home of Devon Fine Fibres. They have England’s only flock of Bowmont sheep (originally bred in Scotland as a mixture of 75% Merino and 25% Shetland), I think Lesley said they had about 50 of them, along with about 200 cashmere goats, and a small number of angora goats (where mohair comes from) and Boer goats, which are a meat goat.
Here are some of the Bowmont sheep out in the field:
And here are some of the Boer goats (the brown and white ones), and the Angora goats (the curly ones):
You can tell just from this picture how intelligent and inquisitive the goats were!
Here are some of the cashmere goats in the field:
And here are a particularly handsome pair of gentlemen (the goat at the back is a cashmere, the one at the front an angora).
I also took a lot of pictures of the goats and sheep who were inside, but they are all rather dark, so I shall spare you from thousands of dark pictures of goats.
It was really interesting to hear about life on the farm, and to talk to someone so passionate about what she does. It sounds like incredibly hard work, and a real labour of love. It is a very delicate balance with the flock of Bowmonts to increase the flock size, while maintaining as high a fleece standard as possible, but also avoiding inbreeding. This last point is especially a concern when the flock size is relatively small, and there are no other flocks available for interbreeding.
Lesley had some gorgeous fibre and yarn, some of which inevitably has come home with me.
First, two 50g bags of washed and carded, undyed Bowmont fibre.
And 25g of Devon cashmere fibre, washed and carded, undyed.
I also bought 2 skeins of gorgeous DK weight green cashmere (I am obviously having a green phase). 50g, and about 100m in each skein. You really need squishy-vision to appreciate this yarn, it is so soft that it is hard to put down.
And 2 skeins of DK weight undyed Bowmont. 50g, and about 150m per skein. I am thinking about dyeing one, or maybe both of these skeins and making some kind of colourwork hat. This is a lovely bouncy yarn.
After tea, biscuits and a very interesting discussion we hopped back on the bus and were driven back to Sheldon in time to stroke all our goodies again before we piled into three cars and drove down to the Nobody Inn for dinner. Here we all are, doing a spot of knitting and chatting before our food arrived.
The food was delicious, and needless to say, the company excellent. We rolled into bed very full and happy.
Sunday morning was a little breezy as you can see from this picture of Rachel, Bex, Donna, and Rosie outside our building.
The ladies at Sheldon very kindly opened their shop up specially for us. I was delighted to be able to buy a couple of balls of DK weight Castlemilk Moorit in natural brown from a local farm (50g per ball, no idea how many metres).
They also had some Aran and DK weight Manx Loaghtan spun from wool from Sheldon’s own sheep, but my wallet was feeling rather pummelled by then so I didn’t get any.
We spent the rest of the morning doing a bit of knitting and spinning, before having a delicious roast lunch.
As you can see Donna has a beautiful purple Suzie pro, and Joanne (at the back right, spinning on Terri’s Lendrum) was a total natural at spinning, her first yarn was much better than mine.
Then time for a clean up and pack everything into the car, then time to go home (which always comes much too soon).
I had a wonderful weekend, the food, outings and company were all excellent. Terri put together a great program of things to do and the food was fantastic. It was great to meet so many lovely fibrey people and spend a weekend together. I am going to have a lot of fun knitting up my purchases too 🙂