It was lovely to see another British mill, using lovingly restored and maintained machines ranging from the 1910's to the 1980's in age especially as we got to see, and just as importantly hear, these machines in action. So different from the gentle scuffing and whirring of my hand carders and spinning wheel...
John gave us a patient and comprehensive explanation of the process of taking fibre from the bale to the skein and the role of each machine in the process. I could never do it justice, so here is a selection of images to give a flavour of the environment.
One of the things that strikes me about a lot of the pieces of equipment is that they are often comprised of rows and rows of things that perform the same function.
I love the style of this old company logo, almost obscured by age.
This gorgeous whirl of caramel coloured alpaca felt as delicious as it looks.
Another logo from a more modern era.
Simple but important pieces of equipment ready to use. The old tobacco tin reminds me of my dad's shed where he kept rows of them full of nails and screws of different sizes.
Combed fibre pouring like milk into the hopper.
This French Comb makes me think of a yarn fountain.
Machinery manufactured in Keighley which used to be in the heart of the wool industry given a new lease of life in rural Devon.
More wheels going whirr...
And here's what it's all about. The brown skein of sock yarn in the centre may have followed me home...
And I haven't forgotten that I mentioned I would show you the yarn that I bought at Sue Blacker's. From the top left, the yellow yarn is a 4ply Falkland Island Wool from Swan Inlet Farm. The dark green is a Guernsey yarn made from a blend of Hebridean, Manx and Romney. The red is a pure Romney Guernsey yarn. The blue is a 4ply Lleyn and Blue Faced Leicester blend and the pale green is a pure Shetland 4ply.
These yarns are destined to become samples of my mitten and mitt designs. The colours are beautifully muted as they often blend around 15% of coloured fleece into the white which really gives the yarn movement. I can't decide which to use first!
Finally I would like to give a big thank you to Sue Blacker and John and Juliet Arbon for their hospitality and for taking the time to share their enthusiasm for what they do with us. It's wonderful that there are small producers such as them around. They have different approaches and processes so can give us as knitters access to a huge variety of yarns, spun in a variety of ways from a huge range of fibres with a passion and concern for the environment, keeping old skills alive and relevant to assure the ongoing development of the small scale fibre industry in the UK.