Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Spinning with children

A while back when talking with Imogen's teacher about this terms subject of the farm, Imogen told her that I spun wool and had a spinning wheel. Her eyes lit up and she was quick to ask me if I would come in to show the children what I do. I said yes without thinking about it, thought it would be a great opportunity to show them something they probably hadn't seen and share my love of fibres and spinning.

I took the Louet wheel with me - easily transportable

Now I'm not a great speaker in front of people, and have always shyed away from needing to talk to large groups of people, so this was challenging me and taking me a little outside my comfort zone. But what the heck, it's for the kids. How many? ... 60! although in two groups, 30 at a time. Sorry no pictures, that would be a lot of permissions I'd need to gain. I can show you some of the stuff I took in though.

Over the last week I have been gathering ideas of what to take and what to show them. I didn't want to just sit there spinning away for too long as that's not that interesting after a while if you're 4/5. So lots of things to look at, to smell (oh yes!) and to feel. I also made up some simple weaving braids for them ~ I was going to just make a few, maybe 20 and then let the teachers know how to make them but then was guilted by Imogen who said everyone needed one and those who didn't might get upset if they didn't have one. I had to agree, and didn't want that so I made 77 of these over a few evenings - plenty for everyone including the adults as Imogen said they needed one too!

 Making up the braiding/weaving disks

So we started by talking about wool and where it came from, how it came off the sheep, they are visiting a farm next week so this tied in nicely with things they were learning. I then sent round several bags of wool of different breeds to show the variation in natural colours - Black Hebridean, Grey Zwartble, Brown Manx and White Portland.

Some of the sample bags - washed and unwashed!

A bag of unwashed straight off the sheeps back, and a bag of washed to see the difference. They liked this bit - lots of shouts of "urgh" and "smelly", yes I did warn them! I also pointed out that they may not want to touch it but if they did to wash their hands afterwards (my little bit of H&S). They had a good feel of the wool, both unwashed and washed and loved it. I showed them the hand carders and how they combed the wool to get the fibres all in the same direction to make it easier to spin.

Carders, wool and roving
One of my spindles with rainbow roving

I then showed them a drop spindle and how that spun the wool which was received with lots of enthusiasm, and then showed how the spindle was like the spindle part of the wheel but that the wheel moving round spun the spindle. They saw the single ply yarn that both made as I sat and spun a little on both the spindle and the wheel. I sent around some samples of spun yarn - natural wools and some brightly coloured dyed wool.

Spun wool, alpaca and linen

Thinking that they would perhaps like to see wool spun I handed out to every child a small sample of merino roving for them to roll on their legs which they were all excited to try. I showed them if you pinch one end and roll it down their leg it spins it, hold both ends and repeat the rolling down the leg again in the same direction; once spun thinly I showed them that if you put the ends together it twists on itself and looks like wool yarn you would buy. They loved it, and there were varying levels of accuracy - some of them really got it. The teachers and assistants loved having a go too. Something for them to keep and take home.

A little merino roving to roll and spin on their leg

I then asked them if they knew of any other animals that have a fleece that could be spun? There were some interesting answers before I mentioned goats and sent some angorra goat wool around; alpaca and sent some alpaca round and llama fibre and sent some of that around too. This amazed some of the adults who didn't know you could spin that too. We then touched on spinning of other fibres too - plants and synthetics and I had samples of flax (linen) and cotton and some synthetic fibres too for them to look at and feel.

Angorra Goat, Alpaca and Llama fibres
Flax (linen), cotton and synthetic roving

We finished with a few questions while I sat and spun so they could see more of the wheel in motion. We didn't even get time to look at the braids so I showed the teachers how to do them and they were having those today.

The braiding and the finished braid 
~ can be used for friendship bracelets or whatever you like

A lovely day, I think it went well, they were very interested and enthusiastic, children and adults. The nerves? Well they kind of disappeared pretty quickly as the children came into the classroom and started asking questions "Wow, what's that?", etc. I also left a few books with the teachers to read with the children and a couple of small books about sheep breeds so they can look at them too over the next couple of days.

Some good woolly story books that take you through the 
process of shearing, washing, spinning and using the yarn

A good afternoon, a good afternoon indeed. A wonderful afternoon showing lovely children something that I love. But I'm really tired now (so tired I couldn't finish the post until the next day!).


  1. Wow, that sounds like a great experience for the kids (and you I hope :) ). Shame you can't pop over here too. We'd love it.
    Lou xx

  2. Thanks Lou, would love to pop over ;-), not so practical though x

  3. Wow, wish I was down there too xx

  4. What fun! I'm taking notes. Just in case. Love all the samples. I suspect that it will stick in the children's minds for a long time.

  5. You know, I remember you mentioning this workshop and I had wondered if it had come up and how it went. Yes, I too suspect that what you shared with the children will stick with them for a long time. Imogen must have been very proud of her mama!

  6. Can you come to my house too please?! What a fantastic experience for the children, you put in so much work, so glad it was so well received! xxx


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