We have started taking bookings for our new Dye to Spin week. We are so excited about this new week, as Bridie is going to be running the Spinning part of the week for us. Bridie has been running spinning classes in Ullapool for years and is a very experienced teacher. We run all our classes in a very relaxed way, giving participants the chance to watch, understand and have a go.
Hand-shearing our Shetland sheep
In a similar way to our Fleece to Felt weeks we will be starting off the week with shearing. Alex will hand shear one of our Shetland sheep. The fleece will then be sorted and separated and then washed (scoured). After washing the fleece, we will pick dye plants, including a mix of; tree Lichens, Heather, Bracken, Nettles, Meadow sweet, Birch bark and more.
Our dyes are made outside over fires. The fleece will be gently heated with the dye stuff to produce a range of colours, a whole rainbow. We usually make about 7 dyes and that produces anywhere between 25-30 shades. Natural dyes give such a wonderful pallet of colour and Scotland is renowned for its long history of dyeing with plants. The Highlands of Scotland in particular have some of the most important dye plants in Britain and Europe.
After dyeing our fleece we will prepare it for spinning, by carding and combing the fleece. Carding, brushes and combs the fibres into the same directions, making it much easier to start spinning with (although, some spinners in the Highlands of Scotland prefer to spin in the grease, straight from the fleece (spinning in the grease means using unwashed fleece).
Spinning the fleece
We will spend two days learning and improving spinning. Complete beginners will work in pairs to start with, with one spinning wheel between them. Bridie has found this a very effective way of learning. Those with more experience can work on their own spinning wheel and as people develop their skills and confidence they can also work solo. At the end of the course the group will have taken a Shetland fleece through the whole process; from watching a shearing demo, to finally spinning their own yarn, from fleece they have naturally dyed – a wonderful, fulfilling experience!