I managed to find a little time to have a break to Scotland, to see the Burrell collection in Glasgow and also a rather special exhibition at the V&A in Dundee.
I almost always take a spindle with me when travelling and this time I decided to take a strick of 90 year old flax from Austria just to see how much I could use up, and whatever I made would be used within my teaching in the London Schools. I spun whenever I was travelling or waiting, but it was a holiday as well, so it wasn’t an intensive spinning marathon. I had many, many very interesting conversations, quite a few surreptitious photographs, and even a video, but it was all good and never a problem.
A very memorable moment, I was spinning the train, sitting in an aisle seat, and a small boy saw me and virtually came to a standstill, mouth open and transfixed, I caught the glance of his mother who was delighted, we had a quick chat about the yarn and he returned to his seat. I suspect he might have been 5 or 6 years old, but it is the first time that I’ve managed to cause anyone to freeze.
A very interesting discussion on board the last ocean going steam paddle ship with a New Zealand lady whose grandfather, an entrepreneur I was told, used to have a flax farm over there, it transpired that it was actually New Zealand flax/Phormium and he mainly made ropes and she was unaware that there was a difference with the true flax that I was using, or indeed that it is considered an heritage source of fibre by the Maori. She was fascinated an delighted to find out a little more about her history, and it was lovely way for me to while away some time with her.
Whilst visiting the Burrell Collection, a first for me, to see a wonderful collection of a somewhat eclectic man spanning thousands of years, I saw a tapestry which called out to me, a woman ridding a donkey through a woodland, holding a child, carrying cooking pots, all whilst spinning on a hand spindle with distaff, wearing a hackle from her belt, leading the domestic animals, all while riding side saddle, with her dog running behind her. There are several interpretations of this, perhaps a woman is good at multitasking, or perhaps doing too much of anything is a bad thing, either way it was a wonderful image from 1470, woven with naturally dyed wool and fine white linen yarns, in remarkably good condition, it might have been the one object I might have taken away with me.
It was a lovely break of just a week but got to see a lot of different things, a lot of travelling on public transport which worked very well, and a lot of spinning achieved, not onto the next part of the job – weaving