june bank holiday is always the date for the Ballyhaunis summer festival here. I haven't been there for quite some time, but earlier this year I was invited to grab my spinning wheel to demonstrate.... I had my doubts, because I have no stall or marquee to sit under and I didn't want to sell anything (i.e rent a stall), so I had to sit "on the pavement". the weather hasn't been great these last few weeks, but on thursday and friday it was quite hot (ok, for us at least:)). my worry about rain turned to worries about melting in bright sunhine - but only for a short while, because the weather forecast put me right again very soon after! it was going to be cool and showery... well, what's new - for the west of ireland? only, yesterday morning it drizzled.... one of those days they call "soft" (= dripping wet, not with squally showers, but with constant persistent drizzle...). and drizzled.... and drizzled... you get my drift! I wrapped everything into plastic bags and waited for my lift. we came into town quite early, nobody there yet apart from a few early stall holders. lucky for me the shop, where my allocated space was, is closed on sundays. I decided to just take my chances and set up wheel, folding chair and folding table right in the shop entrance - and started spinning. I think every single visitor, who stopped to look at me spinning mentioned that I had chosen a very "cozy" spot! I don't know about other people, but cozy evokes something warm and comfortable for me:)) ok, I admit I should have worn socks, but somehow I didn't think my feet would get quite so cold in summer! I don't get cold easily, but at lunchtime I decided to do something about it, before my feet might fall off or I'd get chillblains! I rushed to the local supermarket and bought - acrylic thermo socks:)) I know, it's a disgrace for a spinner and sock knitter, but then the choice in a supermarket on a sunday was rather limited and I wanted the warmest socks I could find there.... after putting on the socks the rest was a doddle - and of course soon after the weather picked up, the rain stopped, the sun came out - and with it loads of visitors! I think everybody had a good time after all - even though I staid in my shop entrance, because with the sun a cool wind blew down main street.
I didn't see much of the festival, but I met two other spinners and talked to countless people, about wool, about natural dyes, about spinning and wheels - even about Indian charkhas and cotton spinning! I was astonished to see how many people from Pakistan (we have quite a large community of Pakistanis in town - Ballyhaunis even has a mosque!) apparently knew about spinning and wheels, even though the traditional wheels there look quite different to my modern Lendrum. I was also surprised that a lot of older men were very interested in spinning - they all reminisced about seeing it as children, though again the wheels would have looked very different. smaller kids of course are always curious, when they see gadgets they don't know and colourful stuff they can touch...
all in all I spun for about 8 hours - and this is the result:
I carded some batts on saturday, roughly only, to get a bit of colour on the wheel. I didn't bother to blend very carefully - a few lumps and bumps didn't matter and I was able to spin without looking too closely, when talking to people. I made three batts each, apart from the white and the lower red/blue in the right corner. the former was some white south american top (a lucky find in my stash, nearly a kg of white top on a roll = perfect for some more dyeing sessions:)), which I blended with the leftover fibres from the previous few batts (I don't like to throw away fibres, but I think there could have been a bit more leftover to see more of it in the end result. well, if it's too white as yarn - I can always overdye it!)
I used the plying head with large bobbins, so that I didn't have to change the bobbins all the time. this is a blend of merino, lambswool, some white angora, some green soy silk - the red was madder dyed, the rest... I think the greens were both dyed with reed flowers, but I am not entirely sure about that. too many small dyed balls in green and yellow! without labels of course.
this is my "witch mix" (the flash brightens the colour, the original is much darker; see above) - some naturally black alpaca top, some black merino, some purple corriedale, pink merino and some glitzy angelina - oh yes, and some wicked green, but only very little. it looks dark and sinister but seeing the glitter in it made a lot of little girls go ooh and aahh:))
I think I will add some green beads to the yarn later, to make the yarn look even more witchy and evil:)) I had planned to fix them by spinning them in, but I decided fiddling about with small beads stringed onto some longer fibres (alpaca?) might not be the best idea for spinning demonstrations....
I also took a basket full of handspun samples with me to show. which proved that everybody always goes for the coloured designer yarns first - you can see if the visitor is a spinner as they are the only ones to grab soft and squishy special fibres from the mix, even (or perhaps because?) when the yarn is fine and evenly spun and undyed. on seeing this photo I realized I have to do some more bright reds very soon, and maybe something in yellow, too!
weirdly enough we had another festival exactly on the same dates as the one above. this is in the neighbouring village of Aghamore - a music festival, designed to challenge other big do's like Oxegen etc. we had our doubts whether or not this will work out (the village is really small and where would 5000 visitors come from?) - and so far we haven't really heard much about it. I admit that I don't know any of the names, but that doesn't mean much; I wouldn't exactly call myself a connaisseur in that area. we were just glad that the noise level was bearable - but I wonder if it was a success or not. I suppose paying 60 euros for one day would be rather costly, esp. if you don't want to go all by yourself? they had quite a list of vendors on their homepage, but you couldn't reach any of them if you didn't pay the ticket price to get behind the fenced off areas:(( so no buffalo burgers for us!
the last picture shows my reward yesterday evening after 8 hours of spinning:)) ok, it was a leftover from saturday's birthday cake (DH), but it was nice to drink a hot cuppa (and wear proper woolly socks again, though I have to admit that the thermos were quite cozy on my feet, despite being acrylic) and eat something nice with it.
oh yes, and if any of the organizers of the summer festival read this entry - well done - and thanks for the nice surprise at the end of the day:)) and, of course, thanks for the lifts by two volunteers....