Merino and other pretties

At the end of last month Hertha introduced us to the secrets of spinning Merino. She had some washed and flick-carded all ready for us – it was so beautiful and soft!

She stressed the importance of keeping the fibre’s natural elasticity.

We concentrated hard trying not to stretch it and to keep it soft and fluffy.

The same goes for plying.
Did you notice the Merino ram’s head on the top of her wheel by Derek Kerwood?

The session was popular and we had a bit of a squash in the little meeting room off the Fire Engine part of the museum.
But why is an underwear-clad man apparently doing a pole dance in the doorway?
He’s a model of a fireman, rushing down to answer an alarm in the vintage fire engine (which you can just see a bit of behind him).

Some of our members went to Dannevirke for a fascinating day of dyeing with natural dyes. These are Annelies’s amazing skeins

There were a lot of colourful things at our monthly show-and-tell, too.

We’ve been keeping Hertha rather busy!

She liked this intriguingly-constructed vest, with the finishing touch of a flower.

An unusual scarf was an effective use of natural fleece, making the most of the colour variation. Click on it to see it bigger.

Remember our work with natural fleece last year?
And how some of the participants couldn’t decide right away what to make with their skeins?

This yarn finally told its spinner what it wanted to be.


There were several nice rugs and blankets too –

spectacularly knitted …
… or beautifully woven.
Colours were delicate …

… or vibrant like this table runner.

This one was a special favourite:



Things are moving

The Wool Shed Museum has a new wing!  Just a year ago, we saw the building getting underway. Now it’s a handsome barn, and the tireless volunteers have been working long hours finishing the interior.

The Bushman’s Hut lost its walls

… and its sign

Its wall planks waited in their new home, meticulously labelled so that each could be put back in its proper place

Reassembling it in the new wing took a lot of measuring …

and serious discussion!

Eventually – success!

There was still plenty to do, with the grand opening coming up fast.

The diligent workers did enjoy a smoko occasionally. In the background is a farm cookhouse, and Scotty’s girlfriend was destined to be the cook.

Nearly ready for the great unveiling – this view is from the mezzanine, with old wool presses at back left and a model sheep in an ingenious shearing cradle. The steam engine on the right is a type that was once used a lot on farms, though this one is attached to a roller.

Time for the opening ceremony! The “ribbon” was of course a length of carded wool.

This is just a snippet of the crowd that gathered in the suddenly spacious  Wilton shed, one of the two old wool sheds moved to the site in 2003.

After a minimum of speech-making, the woolly “ribbon” was cut (with shears of course) by two very special people. (Above photo courtesy John MacGibbon)

Scotty was much admired in his kilt

while Darragh and Nita were quietly happy.
We are pleased to see two of our favourite Wool Shed people honoured.

Apart from that excitement, we’ve been fairly quiet.

The president and the librarian sorted the stuff in our storage cupboard (a job that seems to need doing rather often)

And here are the final results of our efforts at the Vintage Machinery day.

Fleece is now garments washed and ready to be worn by lucky little ones.


The Great Spinning-Knitting Race

The Wairarapa Vintage Machinery Club had a ‘Harvest Rally’ last weekend.

We were invited to participate, and to make it more exciting we formed two teams and had a fleece-to-garment competition each day. There were the ‘Wool Whisperers’ and the ‘Knitwits’ –

Here’s what teams had to do (from our explanatory poster) –
~ First the shearer shears the sheep, and each team gets enough wool to make a small garment.
~ Then team members begin preparing the fleece, by flicking-carding it with a little carder or comb. This removes tangles, vegetable matter and dirt, and aligns the individual fibres.
~ Next the wool must be spun, and then two strands twisted together to make a two-ply yarn.
~ As soon as some yarn is ready, knitting begins.
~ Finally the parts of the garment are sewn together.

On Saturday the goal was a baby jacket like this.

There was a chilly wind so everyone wrapped up well.

It was easy to be distracted!

Some found the fleece a little short and difficult –
– but soon jackets were taking shape

Sunday was warmer.

There were still lots of interesting distractions puffing or chugging past.

We made hats this time, using a dark fleece.

When teams are neck-and-neck, sewing up can be done by two people at once!

The teams finished within two minutes of each other. It was a very enjoyable weekend – we had fun together, saw all sorts of amazing machines, and talked to a lot of lovely visitors.
A big thankyou to John Thompson for this photo, and to Trish for all the Saturday photos above.

Garden time

In January we don’t have ‘proper’ meetings, but get together informally in members’ gardens on Wednesdays. This month has been extraordinarily hot, so generally we sought shade. At Christine’s there was a cool garage –

And a very special celebration for Lexie, who had turned 90 –

One recalcitrant candle refused to stay blown out, no matter what Lexie did!

The next Wednesday we went to Margaret B’s, where some of us settled under a tree –

while others took refuge on a terrace or indoors 

There was something walking on the wall – Eek! A weta!

For our non-Kiwi readers, a weta is a native New Zealand insect older than the dinosaurs, and one species (not this one) is the heaviest insect in the world.

There was no panic. She would have been pretty harmless even if she hadn’t been beautifully made of metal. Very rarely a weta may bite or scratch if threatened but they aren’t poisonous. They just look big, spiky and scary.

On the third Wednesday we went  to Lynette T’s, and again under the big trees was the place to be.

– even for the cars  (thanks Lynette for these two photos) –

Our last Garden Day was at Patrizia’s beautiful farm. Here are a few of us enjoying the shade (again) –

There was some serious talk and plenty of hilarity (this photo is by Christine) –

We were being watched, in a friendly kind of way –

Patrizia made some ice cream from her own eggs and cream, which was yummy. Some ate it elegantly, some didn’t.

It has been a wonderful January, and we thank the four members who have welcomed us to their homes!

And finally – this event looks like fun but what do you suppose it has to do with us? And why, do you think, have we suddenly become rather competitive, and even a bit secretive?

All will be revealed next time!

Fibre crafts new and old

A small but delightful selection of work was seen this month –

The Christmas decorations are by Shona and Helen B, the mat by Jutta and the little caterpillars exploring it were made  by Ann H. The prizewinning knitted hat on the right, by Helga, commemorates Passchendaele with a poppy and bullets, alongside green representing hope for peace.

Another day was declared “Heirloom Day” and everyone invited to bring an item of fibre or fabric craft made a long time ago, by the member or someone important to them. Particularly stunning was a quilt, hand stitched by the member’s grandfather around 1890. He belonged to the British Army band, and used material from old uniforms (plenty of red was available, from the drummers’ uniforms).

The range of embroidery was impressive, from a first effort at school (mine didn’t look like that!)

– to exquisite materpieces

and something very appropriate in the Wairarapa, where the farming tradition is strong –

There was gorgeous lace –

More lace and a doll imitating Marie Antoinette –

Another doll, with character, some impressive weaving and a lace-edged cloth –

Vintage tea cosies and jug covers brought back memories, and what a charming cross stitch picture –

Finally two very different baby hats –

There are so many treasures hidden away! We agreed that we must have another Heirloom Day next year.

We have been impressed by a success story. Early this year a gentleman came to our shop in the Wool Shed, bought some carded wool and arranged for one of our members to spin it for him. He wanted to learn to knit and make a man’s jersey. No, he wasn’t interested in starting on something easier. Taught by a knitter friend, he set to work. Purl proved hard, so he made a garter stitch jersey. It’s turned out well and is now on its way to England as a gift for his son, but he modelled it first.

He is delighted with it, and we are delighted for him.

Best wishes to everyone for the Christmas season,
and may all your projects turn out well!

Mohair and some (virtual) travel

At the end of last month we had a little study session about mohair. Several members had kindly contributed mohair in various stages of preparation, so everyone received a variety of samples – raw, blended with wool, carded pure, dyed in locks and drum carded.

A sample to try

We talked about the differences between mohair and wool, and how to make the most of mohair’s qualities. Some people found it hard to break the habit of smoothing the yarn when spinning, but they succeeded in the end.


And we looked at the effect of brushing, which was – well – fluffy.


We’ve also had our AGM, which had two highlights. First, it was preceded by an account by John MacGibbon of the cruise he and Liz recently took from Alaska to Vancouver. Scenery! Snow! Glaciers!

Hubbard Glacier

Interestiing and cute things were seen in the little towns – here’s a scene in a shop in Skagway:

No, they weren’t Cabbage Patch dolls – and no, they weren’t for sale!

– and they visited Mushers Camp, where sled dogs are trained and Liz found a friend:

Sled dog puppy

The second highlight was Lynette being presented with Life Membership of our guild. Everyone had kept the secret very well and she was more than a little astonished. A bit overcome too. Marion did the presenting.

From one Life Member to another

(We’re making her work for it though – we elected her president for the coming year!)

Thanks to Lynette for taking the mohair pictures, and to John for the Alaska ones and a really interesting talk! If you’d like to see more of cruising round Alaska take a look at

Making and remembering – a blog of two parts

Would you believe it – this fancy scarf was woven on a rigid heddle loom!

Liz made it on an old 12-inch rigid heddle loom by Tekoteko (Philip Poore’s brand, who also made Pipy wheels). You can see the pattern better in this picture, and better still if you click twice on it to enlarge it as far as it will go.

The fibre is silk and yak, 2-ply, and the pattern is called Brooks Bouquet. If (like many of us) you have an underused rigid heddle loom, and if you would like to try it, just google “weave Brooks Bouquet” and you’ll find instructions and how-to videos.

If she isn’t proud of it, she should be! (Thank you to John MacGibbon for the photos.)

And for the second part of the blog, here is a very special picture –

We have lost both those precious members during 2017. Marie, who died early in the year,  was a life member of our guild, and a former president. And Doug no longer sits quietly during meetings, spinning or finishing off his weaving. We miss them both, with their cheery smiles and friendly chat.

In the picture it’s March 2015, and they are cutting our 45th birthday cake! We had quite a big celebration, enjoyed by present and past members.

I wonder how we’ll celebrate our 50th year in 2020!