Hiyah…. Well as of this minute the weather is glorious. Just the kind of autumn day I love, with trees ablaze with colour a cool breeze and sunshine. Though I am not fooled. I know that pretty soon it’s going to be grey days, wet pavements and of course longer periods of darkness. Winter is coming my friends.
However, I have a plan. Or rather my darling friend Tina and I have a plan. We have fleeces and we are going to teach our little community how to card, spin, weave and felt wool straight from the back of the animal. We even know the names of some of the sheep the wool came from! How’s that for starters? Between us we can rustle up three spinning wheels, two large looms, a number of small ones and a few felting tools.
My wheels are both traditional Ashford’s like the one above. However mine is darker as it has been used a lot. Tina’s though comes from the 17th or 18th century and looks more like this… when one pauses to consider the necessary hours spent at the wheel to provide cloth for the family it’s rather awesome. I love that sense of continuity and tradition. I also feel it is of great importance to keep our old crafts and traditions alive – hence our winter project. I can’t wait. If you have never spun for a length of time, you can’t quite realise just how relaxing it can be. You just treadle away and feed the rolog through your hands, feeling the thread form between your fingers, treadle and feed, treadle and feed,and on it goes and your mind drifts, and drifts and dreams……..
Well I guess you get the picture. Don’t knock the drifting and dreaming, many things sort themselves out or manifest during those valuable times and winter is by far the best time for dreams and stories.
Winter -it is a strange season isn't it? In our hemisphere (Northern European) the weather gets colder, the days get darker and shorter and it can seem quite gruelling to get through. We have the usual highlights of winter solstice/Christmas/Diwali/Hanukkah but then it gets darker and colder. Or worse! Working indoors in over warm buildings can insulate one from what is real and a process that is valuable to us all. When we go out in and experience the reality of winter we connect with the land and its cycle. We find our thoughts turning inward, become more reflective. We want to create a nest, make a store cupboard, have time to plan for the next year.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like to be warm and dry; but, in over heated homes it is a real treat to go outside and breathe in the cold air and feel it cleansing your whole system. Taking a walk in the winter weather can really connect you to the land and its cycles, and give you an insight in to the ways of the old ones upon whose shoulders we build our modern lives. No easy comforts for them. All their summer was geared towards stocking up for a winter that could be harsh, unforgiving and brutal. Although some work had to stop in winter due to the weather, other work, put aside during the pace of summer was taken up again, such as spinning and weaving, making and crafting, and of course story telling around the fire. Let’s face it, your hands may be busy but it shouldn't stop you talking.
Story telling too is an important skill we should not lose. I love to tell stories and the fortunes earned and spent in the film industry tells us that this is a common trait across the world. At the college I work at, one of the loveliest sessions I do is traditional story telling. It is an opportunity for the group to share their stories, retell old favourites, including fairy tales and of course to listen. Some of my shyest students can shine when telling fairy tales. The familiarity gives confidence and a receptive audience encourages a bravery that often they would not experience elsewhere.
So long winters – pshaw who cares? I will have my fire, my wheel and my stories to keep me going. What about you?