This month we are chatting to our spinner, knitter and general crafty-lady extraordinaire – Kay from LoopyKate Fibres! Anyone who has been lucky enough to attend one of our Spinning Workshops facilitated by Kay, knows that she has an abundance of knowledge and expertise in the world of spinning and is just so passionate about crafts and how they bring people together. Here are just a few of the questions that we put to her…
So, Kay – how long have you been spinning for and who taught you?
I was taught to spin by Rosemary McCartney (aka SimplySpun) at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. I then joined the Ulster Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers, where I met a lot of lovely women who helped and encouraged me and freely shared their own considerable skills and knowledge. I don’t usually ponder how long I have been spinning but it is certainly more than 25 years.
What inspired you to start offering classes and workshops?
As a member of the Guild, I often demonstrated spinning at agricultural shows and craft fairs and was always encouraging others to ‘have a go’. I found great satisfaction in seeing people find that it wasn’t as difficult as they thought and some of them have gone on to become as addicted as the rest of us! When I took a voluntary redundancy/early retirement from my teaching career in 2016, I wanted to explore the possibility of setting up a woolly business – and workshops and classes were always a big part of the plan. I love helping people learn a new skill and I want to pass on my own passion for fibres and textiles, but I also think it is really important to keep these ancient skills alive for future generations.
And what do you find, are the challenges with teaching beginners how to spin?
My first response is to flip that to – ‘what are the challenges of learning how to spin’. The main one is trying to get your feet and hands to work together – it can be a bit like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy. But once you feel the fibres separate and then twist together, you’ve got it! The challenge with teaching, especially teaching adults, is to persuade them just to let go and have faith it will work! The yarn doesn’t have to be perfect the first time – indeed people often spend years trying to recreate the lovely uneven yarns they made when they were beginners!
You have recently joined the Yarn Patch team. What is your favourite thing about it?
Being surrounded by yarn and all the lovely colours makes for a great working environment – as does being so close to the Bay Tree! But the best bit is meeting the customers, helping them decide the best yarns for their needs and dreams – and seeing the results of all their hard work.
What is your favourite type of craft project?
For mindless, relaxing knitting, I go for socks. My nephew loves my socks and he has several pairs! Otherwise, I love a good intricate colour work pattern. It’s even more interesting if I am designing it myself and have only an approximate picture in my head of how it will look, so I have to plan each new step. I admire Kaffe Fassett’s approach; when in doubt, add another colour! I have just finished a circular yoke jumper using a colour change yarn. Unfortunately, despite careful swatching, measuring and washing, the main body is a bit big – but I will still be wearing it!
We know that you enjoy dyeing, knitting, and sewing as well as spinning, which of these is your favourite and why?
The one that I am doing at the minute! I enjoy them all for different reasons and in different seasons. I love the colours that I can put together when I am dyeing; I love the tactile nature of spinning; I love the textures and patterns I can create in my knitting and I find great satisfaction in turning pieces of fabric into usable objects. Maybe that is what I like about all of the crafts; making an unpromising looking pile of fibre or wool turn into something useful and, hopefully, beautiful.
What advice would you give beginners?
For beginners of any craft, I would say start with something manageable (reasonably small) and beautiful that you want to create for yourself or someone you love. Use the best materials you can afford – and keep going. If you get stuck, find someone to help you. No matter how challenging, you will feel such a sense of achievement when your fist piece is done – and if it is for someone else, your love for that person will be in every element of the item. What better gift could you give?
Can you give us some tips for how to start learning to dye?
Come to one of my workshops! It’s pretty easy to dye clothes or fabrics in the washing machine – and I don’t mean by washing a red sock in with your whites! Just buy a packet of Dylon and follow the instructions. Dyeing wool is a bit different and takes some additional equipment, especially if you want to use natural dyes.
Do you enjoy any other pastimes or interesting hobbies?
I love to walk, especially at the coast or in the countryside and I often realise that the colours and colour combinations that find their way onto my fibres are the ones I have seen on recent walks. I also like baking and trying to grow things in my garden. I say ‘trying’ because at the minute my ‘wild flower meadow’ looks more like a wilderness, though the bees and butterflies seem to be enjoying it, and the slugs are enjoying everything else…
Surprise us with a random interesting fact about yourself!
Not sure how interesting it is, but when not at The Yarn Patch, I can often be found in Mount Stewart car park counting car parking spaces, talking to visitors – and knitting socks! Now there is a garden with heaps of colour inspiration…
Keep an eye out for more news about classes that Kate will be holding at The Yarn Patch on our Events Page.