What I’ve been up to – Blog

FARFIELD MILL – So it is happening!!!!!

The vote for Farfield will be on 25th August and I will be there voting FOR the resolution – if anyone want’s to vote for the resolution by proxy I will be delighted to represent you – new members or old or you can send your proxy vote to the Chair but please get them in early – signed, sealed and delivered ASAP to the company secretary – DON’T SEND THEM TO ME!.



Farfield Mill needs rescuing

Why I’m feeling fed up!

On Saturday 28th July I attended a meeting that was to vote for a change of setup for Farfield mill.
Yes that’s the place I’ve just moved into for my studio.
The meeting was attended by a lot of very enthusiastic and committed people who wanted to see the mill saved and start to thrive – it currently supports 19 small craft workers with studio space but the mill needs some money and has a new and hardworking trustee group who have worked hard to find a realistic and sustainable way forward and they did it. They took a lot of specialist advice and had the agreement of the banks and the Charity commission to take things forward in this way. The proposal was to change the company into a charitable community benefit society and along with that change they had a solid offer of £100,000 of match funding – this was a great proposal especially as the alternative is the winding up of the company and disposing of the assets. Everyone at the meeting with the exception of one person voted for the change and to save the mill. Sadly that wasn’t enough – the constitution demands a 75% membership agreement to change the company to something else. There were a small group who didn’t even attend the meeting who put in a block of no votes that meant the change couldn’t happen.

There is little time or opportunity now for anything to happen – the only possible solution is for enough new people to become members of the trust as it stands to change the vote at the next meeting which will almost certainly be giving a choice of the recommended change or official winding up.
A few of us are doing our best to persuade friends and family to become members and save what is a vital piece of weaving heritage as well as a vital place for small crafts people – mainly new start ups who are about to become homeless and will probably have to give up – I probably will.

Now I and the other studio folk are just praying for a last minute miracle!So what’s going on?
Farfield mill – SAVE MY HERDY BANK?38217144_2162776133741896_7263589643784814592_o.jpg
Well maybe – Nothing official just yet but I know from the number of forms that I have sent to the mill this week that there has been a fantastic response to my plea for help and hopefully I’ll get to know exactly how many people have joined the trust in order to help us save not just the mill but also the community of artists that have studios there and of course the wonderful staff at the mill too. There are over thirty people whose jobs are on the line here.
So what can I tell you – well I know that the response has been fantastic and I also know that a group of the members from before last weekend have presented the trustees with a resolution for another vote to save the mill which supports going forward as a charitable community benefit society. We are currently awaiting the response from the trustees – which we hope will happen soon. (I’ll update you once I know for certain what the response is but I’ll be very surprised if it isn’t positive!)
Then of course is the time that all our new members will need to get into gear and get their votes in – it will be really important for every single person who has joined to vote for our change to a charitable community benefit society – WHY? Because in law we need to have a minimum of 75% of the voting members voting for the resolution – so we need everyone to make sure that they vote and please do it at the very first opportunity – you will be able to send a proxy vote in but please take note that we can’t afford to have any mistakes on these papers – they must be clearly signed and that means by hand not by computer and back to the mill at the earliest opportunity.
I just pray, hope and believe that this is all going to happen and that it will happen very soon – it would be the best 60th birthday present I could be given – and that happens a week on Saturday, so you can see just how quickly I think all of this could take place.
Of course the trustees need to make sure that they do everything correctly and having taken relevant advice – so it might not happen as quickly as I would like it to but you can be sure that I’ll keep you updated with announcements on my @bareweaver Facebook page.
Once the vote has happened of course then we really have the biggest hurdle and that is finding people willing to buy those all-important shares – I’ll be raiding my piggy bank – well actually my Herdy bank to buy some shares unless enough people buy me shares to save it – coming to think of it – anyone wanting to buy me a 60th birthday present that isn’t whisky – Shares in Farfield could be just the job!

The story of Tabitha – the Resurrection of a Dryad countermarch loom


The story of “Tabitha” a very sad little Dryad loom that I purchased unseen and wondered if I had gone mad!26230190_1900336816652497_8965760737767957821_n


Tabitha was left unloved and unused to get dusty and dirty and covered in paint splatters for what must have been many years. When I got her home and looked at what I’d bought I did wonder about my sanity but as with many things in life you have to look beyond the surface to see the potential that lies beneath and so it was with Tabitha.

I’ve called her Tabitha as I already have a harp called Lazarus which I rescued after it had been broken in an accident and another smaller harp called “Talitha Khum” as it also had to be resurrected from the dead (both were Biblical references) and so when I took on Tabitha I was looking for another resurrection story and this name was from a miracle of St. Peter who I always thought had been overlooked by the church ever since Paul arrived on the scene; anyway I digress.

Tabitha looked very sorry for herself – so I took pity and started the job of bringing her back to being not just a working loom but also a nice looking piece of furniture as I do believe these small looms should look good if they are going to have house room.


Siezed up ratchets

Paint splatters everywhere

A puppy had obviously enjoyed quite a few bits of it

And the stings, heddles and aprons were all well past useable

All in all this was going to be quite a project!

Time to get started – it is freezing outside quite literally so I didn’t do that much today before bits of me became so numb that I had to give up but I’m in no rush with this project so that is fine.

First job is to free Tabitha from bondage – so out came the scissors and all the old strings and heddles were removed – they were too dirty and frayed to be kept.

Cutting off the old stuff left the wood so that I could see what was still usable and what I might need to replace. I should add that I’m also going to modify this loom by adding an extra four shafts to it whilst I’m restoring it.


The original shaft sticks are generally ok but I’m thinking I’ll replace them as the wood matches what is already part of the loom and these are the same section as the countermarch levers of which I’m going to need another eight – so they will not be thrown away but re-used in the modification of the loom.


Although the treadles are well chewed they are all still useable  but I will need to add four more when I make this an eight shaft loom so I may just make new treadles for all 10 so that they match.

An hour and a bit with the finishing sander used before taking anything apart has removed most of the paint and the old laquer and lef nice clean wood and just a few bits to complete when the loom is stripped a bit further.

Time for a cuppa and to thaw myself out!

This is going to become a very nice and pretty little loom.

Watch this space for the next steps



EXCITING TIMES – The Bare Weaver is opening studio space in Lancaster UK – OPENING 5th DECEMBER 2017

So it is time for a little bit of expansion. Having acquired a lovely but quite large 12 shaft countermarch loom that has filled my home studio I was left with the issue of where could I take people who want to learn to spin or weave and where could I sell my wonderful weaving and spinning produce.

The answer came from an offer of space in the Assembly rooms in Lancaster where I can work on my smaller 4 shaft loom or my spinning wheel and have a small display area for my products. It’s all quite exciting and feels like the right thing to be doing – so I’ve given up my paid employment to expand my weaving and spinning time and to encourage others to take up these wonderful heritage crafts.
Why not call in to see me, bring a wheel or a spindle or borrow one of mine for a small fee and lets have a lovely spin in!
Want to learn from scratch – contact me about my beginners have a go days

Is it British wool

Is it British wool?
You might be fooled into thinking that buying wool certified by the wool marketing board as British wool that it would be 100% British wool. This sadly is not the case – the wool marketing board describes “British Wool as having to have a minimum content of 50% wool that originated here in the UK the rest could come from anywhere.

Where do I source my wool from?

For hand spinning and for personal use I buy direct from the farm – so my wool is 100%British wool and I’m proud of that – it means that when you buy from me you are not only supporting a small craft business you are also supporting a small farm businesses too. For products that I sell I only use wool that is native/ rare breed which supports some of our smallest sheep farmers and smallholders.


Meet Erin, a Jacob cross Welsh black mountain – she’s providing some of my wool this year


and Denis – he’s also supplied a wonderful fleece for this years projects for my family but since he isn’t a native rare breed I won’t be using his wool in the products I’m selling.


Erin’s wool is a lovely mix of colours and should provide some fantastic yarn.


For weaving I also use some other people’s yarn for specific bespoke items such as this bag created in lovely blue dyed wool with a sliver of sparkle added. I buy my yarn direct from a small spinning mill in Shetland which guarantees its wool is 100% from Shetland crofts and no other wool is added from elsewhere – so it isn’t mixed with wool from Australia or other countries and because of this it has a very low carbon footprint.


Colours can be mixed to suit – you can even send me your own yarns to have something made up for you.


Contrasting colours can be very attractive.

Just think about what you are wearing

We recently headed down to Wales to take a look at what industrialisation did to our rural cottage workers. When we saw the scale of what could be done in the mills it was just incredible.

The wool arrived from the farms in huge bales

And it was fed by hand into their combing machine

Where it is shredded, then combed and turned into roving.

Then the spinning took place and this is the important bit -2000 of these-

Were replaced with just one of these –

And this was just one of six spinning machines that were operated in this mill alone.

Just think about that 2000 small rural families losing their staple income in one fell swoop from just one machine and there were six of them just in this mill 12000 people put out of work so that rich industrialists could make vast profits – nothing has changed.

So value what you do when you are spinning your wool by hand – you are keeping alive a lost heritage and it is so valuable.

My next trip is off to Shetland to see how some small operations are still managing to make their way alongside the mills of today and to look more at the history of spinning and weaving.

Spinning a yarn

When you get the craft bug it can be quite a fascinating change of your life. It isn’t just about the things you make, at least it isn’t for me; it’s also about the story, for example I just bought and washed a huge wool fleece ready for combing and spinning – it was a lovely sticky sloppy job, it’s all part of the fun. I was particularly interested in this fleece because the lovely lady I got it from also sent me two or three pictures of Denis the Texel sheep who had grown it. So there was already a bit of a story there, but now I have a bit more of the story and the nice thing is that I can tell the story whenever anyone asks about the things I have made from his wool and who couldn’t fall for the story of this not so little fella?

“Denis is on the Pantcyfyng farm Bwlchllan, Lampeter where he and the rest of the flock are looked after by Caroline Lewis.

Caroline told me…

“Denis was one of a twin from a neighbouring pedigree flock of texels. He was born with contracted tendons and wonky bandy knees on both his front legs. After 3 -4 days of hoping he would strengthen up so he could follow his mother and go out into the field, the owner gave up and asked me if I would like him as he couldn’t do anything with him. Never one to shirk a challenge where a little lamb is concerned, I immediately offered him a home. He spent the first 6 weeks of his life living in my house with splints on both front legs.

The first day he wore the splints he couldn’t work out how to lie down as his front legs didn’t bend. That first night, I slept on the sofa with Denis draped across my body with his front legs dangling off the front of the sofa!!! By day 2 he’d got the hang of it all!! He couldn’t go down to the shed pen with the other orphan lambs though as he couldn’t walk in the straw.

His splints were changed every 4 days as being a Texel he grew rapidly. My one worry was that his daily weight gain would be too much for him to support and I’d never get his legs to hold him up.

Eventually though, with gentle daily walks with me, he strengthened enough to have the splints removed bit by bit each day and finally he was strong enough to go out with the other lambs and lead a normal life.

His original owner had castrated him before I had him and he now has the very important job of babysitting the stock ram “Donald” for 10 months of the year.

He made an appearance on BBC Countryfile alongside Anita Rani in 2015.

He will be 3 years old in March 2017 and now weighs in at 130kg.

A more gentle sheep you couldn’t wish to meet, I’m sure he thinks he’s a pet dog! He’s one of the farm characters,  love him to bits!! (as you can probably see from the number of photos of him!!!!)”


So that’s where the wool came from that is currently taking up half the house as it dries after its washing.

What happens next is another story – watch this space