While everyone else was Knitting in Public, we took it a few steps further and sheared, spun, knitted and dyed in public at Vauxhall City Farm! The Sheep & Wool day was a great success - three sheep sheared, many cakes eaten and cups of tea drunk, quite a bit of spinning, and a surprising amount of sales of handmade goods. I don't know what the final tally was, but I sold more than £100 of bags, cushions, bootees and stoles. I was in charge of pricing the handmade goods, but came up against some resistance in my attempt to set the prices at something realistic for the amount of time and effort that had gone into them.
The division was quite clearly on age grounds; most of the older members of the group wanted to charge only a few pounds for items that had been handspun, naturally-dyed and handknitted. It's that old problem of women undervaluing their time and effort - whereas younger women tend to regard hand-knitted items as 'craft', it's more common among the older generation to see it as their 'duty'. There was also an argument that people in the area were poor - and yet one of the first sales I made was a £35 linen scarf to a lady whose daughter was there for her weekly riding lesson. Later in the day I amused the local kids by giving them lengths of my chunky handspun yarn to make bracelets out of, and made a mental note to knock a few up for the next event so we could have items priced below £1 for pocket money resources.
The day was delightful; the sun shone and we were busy but not overrun, which made it possible to chat to people properly and get some interesting feedback about the event and our publicity efforts. Three sheep got shorn, we did some spinning and knitting demonstrations, toured the dye garden, and Lisa got the indigo dip going, which my handspun eventually found its way into!
This was my first close-up and personal viewing of a sheep being shorn.
First find your sheep. Here our valiant shearer Tommy manhandles one of his own Oxford Down sheep, brought over specially from Mudchute City Farm in Docklands.
"Oooh, mind me todger!" It's tricky shearing round the castrated ram's leftover bits! The shearer works over the belly, then up the neck and sideburns, then turns the sheep over and does its back.
Pam gets the fleece 'hot' off the sheep's back and gives us a demonstration of how it is spun.
It's hot work, and both sheep and shearer are glad it's over! This sheep gets to keep his topknot as a mark of his breed.
If you like what you see, do come along on Saturdays in term time, we are there from 11.30 till 2 for drop-spindling, knitting, wheel spinning or dyeing - come along and try something new! Contact details are here.