Hand Spinning & Natural Dyeing - Sarah Matthess

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Summer Ramblings

This Summer's ramblings' were in Northumbria with the caravan. A wonderful wild and rugged county.  We worked our way down the coast from Berick-upon-tweed and Lindisfarne with its castle and priory to Bamburgh Castle just south of Lindisfarne.

Bamburgh Castle

Lindisfarne Island Causeway

Lindisfarne Priory was where the Viking's first invaded Britain in AD 793. The island is now accessible by vehicle on a very civilised tarmac road, at low tide. 

Back at the camp site, imagine my surprise one morning to find a newly arrived fellow camper with her spinning wheel perched outside her caravan on the grass. Pity I didn't get a pic of Alison. But we had some nice spinning-chat.

Alnwick a few miles south of Bamburgh, is the home of 'Barter Books'. Anyone who knows the area, knows 'Barter Books'. Housed in Alnwick's beautiful old dome roofed, stone built, train shed, and claiming to be one of the largest second hand book shops in England. I believed that. Model train sets are set up above the bookshelves, and the little trains rattle around the shop giving a very pleasant background noise which sounds like rain. If you don't know that you will think it is raining. It probably is anyway.  Best of all was the 30p a cup filter coffee and the comfy sofas to sit in whilst thumbing through volumes you might want to buy.  I did find something rather interesting.

'The Natural Knitter' by Barbara Albright, published in 2007. This book contains a lot of interesting, and I thought a little unusual knitting patterns, alongside information on the fibre used and highlighting various small yarn producers. Plant and animal fibres are both covered and information on natural plant dyeing.  Barbara Albright lives in Connecticut and is an author of several books on knitting. This book contains a sweater pattern for men, which was a welcome discovery.

I'm trying this one on some soft hand-spun Jacob's fleece blended with black alpaca, spun to a light Aran weight, knitted with a fine strand of brown tweed commercial singles on 6mm needles.

During our travels we stumbled upon Whistlebare where we had a very friendly welcome from the owner, Alice, who kindly showed us around. They run a small family yarn business.  After sheering, the wool is spun commercially and then dyed back at the farm.

'Whistlebare, a small family run business in North Northumberland where we keep pedigree flocks of Angora Goats, for their fine mohair fleece and Wensleydale Sheep for their high lustre longwool.' 

The drive back to the east coast followed Hadrian's Wall. Intrepid hikers were braving the sheets of rain that swept over Northumbria National Park that day. Clad in expensive looking hiking boots and trekking poles, they were really experiencing The Wall! Reaching Caryryan we boarded Stenaline for the return trip to Northern Ireland.

For more lovely photos of places we visited, check out photography by Peter Matthess

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