Tag Archives: mill

Stylecraft Blogstars Meetup, aka Not Too Shabby A Weekend

It’s much easier to write blog posts when things are going wrong, or when nothing much has happened. Comic anecdotes come more readily when you’ve mistakenly put your husband out for collection with the recycling, or when you’ve spent an insomniac half-night pondering a mysterious chicken-shaped splodge on the bedroom ceiling.

stylecraft mill Slaithwaite Spectrum Yarns Yorkshire

Here’s a clue about where this blog post is going.

Unfortunately,* things have gone catastrophically well this weekend… which was immensely fun to experience, but isn’t very funny to describe. I have lovely yarn/knitting/crochet-related things to show and tell you about, but it’s not going to be very funny. Aware of this problem and feeling desperate, I resorted to going for an extra-long run today, because my biggest idiocy generally happens knee-deep in mud and four miles from home, but even that went uncharacteristically well. I give up!

Warning: this blog post may contain scenery.

Anyway, to the point.

On Friday, I zoomed up to West Yorkshire at the wheel of the Blunderbus (replacement for the Stinkwagon) to join in with the second meet-up of the Stylecraft Blogstars at and around the Stylecraft mill in Slaithwaite.

Stylecraft mill spectrum slaithwaite yarn

The Stylecraft mill is the one behind the chimney in the distance on the right.

Shall we do the introductions first? It’s a cliché to say so (and I write that as someone who likes to take clichés out the back and beat them mercilessly) but these folk really don’t need a whole load of introduction. Let’s introduce them anyway.

stylecraft blogstars

From the left: Jane Crowfoot, me, Sarah at Annaboo’s House, Heather at The Patchwork Heart, Julia at Hand Knitted Things, Lucy at Attic24, Helen at The Woolly Adventures Of A Knitting Kitty, Emma Varnam, Sandra at Cherry Heart, Lucia at Lucia’s Fig Tree, and Kathryn at Crafternoon Treats. (Sadly, Sue Pinner wasn’t there this time.)

Living on the opposite side of the planet was NOT considered an adequate excuse for non-attendance. It’s tough being a Blogstar: you have to do stuff way past midnight.

And joining us via Skype at heaven-knows-what time of the night or day, was Angela at Get Knotted Yarn Craft (pictured on the laptop above), and Zelna at Zooty Owl. Phew, what a line-up!

yarn stories

So we met, and we shared ideas, news, over-enthusiasm, wine, a hotel, gossip, yarn, workshops, food, and a trip out to the Knitting And Crochet Guild historical archive. (More on the Knitting And Crochet Guild in a separate post, because it was fascinating.)

Naturally, we insisted on a hotel with its own helipad. One has standards, y’know.

This was a gathering where nobody batted an eyelid if you pulled out your knitting during dinner or crocheted throughout a meeting, or if you talked about yarn for an hour without even pausing for breath, or if you were observed arriving at the hotel with luggage comprising only one toothbrush and 85 knits/hooks-in-progress. Obviously, we knitted/hooked throughout pre-dinner drinks:-

Someone kindly took a photo before the yarn came out at dinner:-

These are my kinda people, and they’re probably yours, too.

It would be fair to say that we were treated rather well.

stylecraft

What? For ME? Oh I couldn’t possibly! … Actually, maybe I could, if you really insisted…

We began with an update on what’s coming soon from Stylecraft. I’m sorry, but this really is a if-I-tell-you,-I’ll-have-to-kill-you situation, until the new batches of yarns are officially released. More news to come very, very, soon.

stylecraft blogstars

Saturday was a day filled with marvellous things at the mill, including a workshop on Tunisian crochet:-

Busy. Concentrating.

It’s quite fun, once you get the hang of the strange knit-cum-crochet rhythm:-

At least they gave me exactly the right mug for my green tea:-

We admired each other’s work. Look at ThePatchworkHeart’s blankets!

And Lucia’s Fig Tree’s blanket!

(Maybe I should have brought my chair.)

It was all wonderful, inspiring, invigorating, and exciting, and I’m probably not alone in having come away with a whole hairy heap of ideas.

View from the window.

My only gripe was that it was all over far, far too soon.

Still, there was still a little time before sunset to run around the town getting shots of the magnificent viaduct that cuts across the town:-

And see?

And see?

And as the sun threatened with some sincerity (I REALLY MEAN IT THIS TIME!) to sink below the horizon, I grabbed a last few images of the countryside around Slaithwaite:-

All in all, a pretty good weekend.

 

*OK, I’m not really ungrateful.

40 Comments

Filed under Blogging

To The Mill!

Evenin’. We all here? Good, good. Do have a seat… NO, NOT THAT ONE! Sorry, didn’t mean to shout, but that’s the chair the twinnage have booby-trapped. What’s that you say? Oh, um, trust me, you don’t want to know, but… you’re not scared of worms, I hope?

Help yourself to some wine. You’ve brought yarn? Ha, silly question: of course you’ve brought yarn.

Speaking of yarn, would you like to see round an old woollen mill? It’s just that a few of us knit/crochet bloggers* were invited to Yorkshire at the weekend by the fine fibrous folk at Stylecraft for the inaugural meeting of the Blogstars programme. (More on that over the next few posts, including a giveaway, and some rather exciting insider gossip about future yarny developments…) So I loaded up the ol’ Stinkwagon with knitting paraphernalia, a toothbrush, and a change of socks, and headed up to Slaithwaite. Look!

IMG_8562

The first thing we did on arrival was tour the mill with Richard Brown, owner of Spectrum Yarns (which produces Stylecraft, Yarn Stories, and some luxury merino clothing treats). Want to see? The mill is oldish – 1907. Spinning skills in this area run deep amongst local families, so it’s no accident that Spectrum’s spinning happens here, whereas its knitting operations are over in Derbyshire. (Their acrylic is made under licence in Turkey, just in case you were wondering.)

IMG_8528

Considerably more than fifty shades of grey.

If you’ve ever knitted with Yarn Stories yarn (as I have), it was spun here.

See this stuff in the picture below? It’s ‘tops’ – undyed, untwisted, sheep fluff. Yes it does feel as nice as it looks.

Mmmmmmmm......

Mmmmmmmm……

The yarns produced here are worsted-spun, i.e. comprising tightly twisted, neatly parallel, same-length fibres, producing a smooth, dense, hard-wearing yarn. (Stop me if you know this already, but the alternative is woollen-spun, in which fibres are all over the place prior to spinning – making a fluffier, wilder, warmer, but less hard-wearing product.) I remember reading all about the two processes in this book, but it was interesting to see worsted spinning in action.

IMG_8522

So yeah. The machines here can combine up to ten feeds of tops, mixing light with dark shades as required. By the way, some of the tops is sent off for dyeing as soon as it arrives, and the rest is dyed as yarn.

Richard Brown explains.

Richard Brown explains.

Next, the spinning frame draws the fibre out to its correct width, and applies twist. So by this stage we’re dealing with something resembling yarn, rather than just a hairy bucket o’fluff. Progress!

IMG_8530

The exact width and quality of the product is monitored electronically. Also, there’s a whole lab dedicated to micro-assessing of the quality of yarn.

IMG_8547

They take their work seriously in the lab:-

IMG_8548

If I had a job there, I’d demand to see a lot of yarn samples:-

IMG_8549

Or I might just sit and drool at the display on their wall:-

IMG_8546

Anyway, back to the shop floor. After spinning, the yarn is twisty – a little too twisty, to be frank. If you hold up a length of yarn, it fights you to ravel itself into a spirally knot. So the next stage of the process is to pop it in a steam oven to persuade it to calm the heck down.

The steam oven.

The steam oven.

The result is a lot calmer and more biddable.

IMG_8540

I could look at this yarn all day.

IMG_8536

On one floor of the mill are boxes (and boxes) of yarn, ready for dispatch. I tried to linger behind the group as they left, hoping to get locked in with more yarn than I could conceivably knit in a lifetime, but unfortunately somebody noticed.

IMG_8551

Oh, and d’you see that lovely wooden floor there? Richard had a tale to tell about that. The six-floor building was originally constructed as a cotton mill. Cotton dust (‘fly’) is a notorious risk for explosion, so in order to prevent any irritating infernos and loss of life, the floors were made of beautiful solid maple, which carried a low risk of sparking.

IMG_8553

Meanwhile workers at the time wore iron-soled clogs, and over the decades, their footsteps wore two deep dips in the sandstone staircase:-

Look, d'you see how those steps have worn?

Look, d’you see how those steps have worn?

So that, my friend, is the basics of the process. More soon on the Blogstars programme, and a giveaway!

 

∗ Lucy from Attic24, Julia from Hand Knitted Things, Sandra from Cherry Heart, Sue at Susan Pinner, Kathryn from Crafternoon Treats, Sarah from Annaboo’s House, Helen from The Woolly Adventures Of A Knitting Kitty, Heather from The Patchwork Heart… and present in spirit if not in person, Jane Crowfoot, Angela from Get Knotted, and Emma Varnam.

23 Comments

Filed under Yarn