Welcome to the August opening of the Ribbon Tin. Inside the Ribbon Tin is a monthly series featuring a miscellany of bits and bobs, odds and sods, knicks and knacks, all sorts of interesting things related to textiles and making.
First out of the Tin this month is a yarn bombing festival that a dear reader let me know about. It seems Australian country towns have embraced yarn bombing. I have been seeing cosied trees and and signs everywhere. But I have never seen anything like this before.
This is Jumpers and Jazz in July, a fibre festival in Warwick Queensland. There are exhibitions, prizes for tree covers and a yarn bombing extravaganza.
A very special part of the festival was an exhibition called Knitchen by Loretta Grayson, an entire retro style kitchen covered in textiles. You can read more about the festival on the fabulous Australian road trip blog Sparkling Adventures of a Free Range Life.
Next, I want to share with you the best description of spinning ever…
Spinning is the technique of twisting together a number of fibres which can vary in length…into a strong, continuous thread. If a bunch of any textile fibres is held in one and with the other a few fibres are drawn-out, these will part company from the bunch, but if the hand drawing-out the fibres at the same time twists them in one direction only, they start to form a thread. Give them more twist and the thread becomes stronger, and continue to draw-out fibres while twisting them and they become a continuous length.
Patricia Baines wrote that in 1977 in her book, Spinning Wheels, Spinners and Spinning and it just says everything really. Such a simple concept that requires years to master as a technique. One of my spinning friends lent me this book after she found it in an charity shop… what treasure!
Women twirled a spinning wheel wound with wool or plant fibers and pulled out long threads for weaving clothes and household goods.
What does that even mean?
The picture doesn’t make it any clearer. It looks like the woman is pulling out yarn from the spindle instead of it being wound on. The illustration moves too when you pull a handy arrow, making things even more confusing. But hey…it is very pretty!
Back to the previous marvel though, Patricia Baines and her spinning book which is just full of curious annecdotes and emphemera.
This is my favourite…apparently the Patron Saint of Wool Combers is Bishop Blaise. This is not because he had anything to do with wool but rather because he died after being tortured with instruments which were similar in look to wool combs in Armenia in 316.
Stained glass from Picardy, France, 13th Century. Blaise is in the middle. The photograph is by Jastrow, 2005, Wiki Creative Commons.
But wait…it gets more bizarre. From 1769 till 1825, in Bradford, Yorkshire (still a woolly place where wool is spun) a festival to honour the Saint was held every seven years. A procession of folks carried lots of wool and represented all the wool trades including staplers, spinners, sorters, charcoal burners, dyers, comb makers, and combers. According to Baines’ description, they all wore wigs make of combed wool! The Saint was represented surrounded by shepherds and shepherdesses and Jason and Medea (the Golden Fleece thing I guess).
What I would not give to see such a parade!
Bishop Blaise Pub, Derby, 2006, photography by Mark Shirley, Wiki Creative Commons
And here is the Bishop Blaise in Derby, the town in the North of England that built the first mechanised factory and considered the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Interestingly, the factory produced silk not wool but clearly those Northerners loved their Blaise.
And that’s all folks.