Mavis's Shoe

Author of two novels and a creative memoir.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Knitting on the road

Dear protector of the humble campervan, please make this trip peaceful and easy and keep the mechanics of my van, the lovely Vanessa Hotplate, running smoothly. There is so much fun to be had at Woolfest in Cockermouth and I have an accomplice. This is, therefore, not a solo writing trip but a jaunt to the land of Angles and sheep.

We are leaving at the crack of dawn, or slightly after. We’re in Scotland where the dawn will happen at 4.30 am and 7 is about as early as I can do. Sarah Henry, my partner on this adventure, used to be a knitter, like me. Now she’s a spinner too. Her brother has taken to breeding Merino sheep. This is an unusual thing to do because Merino sheep are delicate souls and don’t like the damp British weather. Who does? But as he’s a vet he will know how to cosset these little souls and ensure they produce lots of lovely soft wool.

Sarah and I will stuff Vanessa Hotplate with sleeping bags, tea bags and other essentials, and five raw fleeces. We will then charge down the motorway to Cockermouth, unload the wool for selling, then go and buy other people’s finished yarn and fill up the van again.

Or rather, I will. Sarah not only spins wool into yarn, she also dyes it into the most amazing colours. Earlier this year, while we were the fabulous Edinburgh Wool Festival earlier this year, she bought me a spindle and promised to teach me how to use it. This is how she herself learned. She also very generously gave me a skein of her brother’s natural undyed Wensleydale and Leicester sheep yarn which I am going to use to make fancy Di Gilpin mittens.

It seems auspicious that there is some Leicester in there because Leicester features in my current work-in-progress about baby-snatching. Lester is a boy from Leicester. (Or is he?)

This is a selection of commercially dyed unspun wool given to me by a friend who is a felter. I'm hoping that using so many colours will help me learn to spin by clearly differentiating strands.

There will also be real live sheep at Wool Fest, although none will be travelling there in the van. (Phew!)

Meanwhile I am cleaning out the van, emptying the toilet, filling the water tank, draught-proofing the back door and generally tidying up. I don’t get many visitors, especially overnight ones, so this is going to be a total treat, as long as everything works ...

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