Harking Back to the Future

Durham Guild has had two wonderful main gatherings over the last two months, along with a number of informal get-togethers….. and the writing of this blog post has been mainly in my thoughts rather than with the keyboard as I have been waiting for a few hours of quiet, busy-less-ness in my routine to get these words onto paper (so to speak).


On October 20th we had the brilliant Jan Beadle come to lead a workshop. When Jan was first booked to do a “Clasped-Weft” weaving workshop I must admit I had to go look up clasped-weft to see what it was about. Jan is such an experienced and well known tutor places for the workshop were booked up quickly.

Whilst the internet’s version of clasped-weft work had left me curious and excited the day turned out to be quite unexpected – the resulting woven “pictures” were simply stunning!


Jan brought along looms already warped up and ready to go. She had created the warps using beautiful, muted colours which, she explained, represented the landscape. Using two contrasting weft colours it was possible to create a “picture” landscape.

As people started working there was a distinct hush as people concentrated on the images emerging. We learnt about colour and tone as well as the intriguing technique.

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The work was truly beautiful and all those taking part were completely captivated by the process and the products.

Along with Jan’s workshop at one end of our meeting room there were many guild members with wheels, spindles, looms and knitting at the other enjoying good company and fibre fun. It was a fabulous day.

Then to November!! We had planned a series of “Holiday Talks” as many of our members have been away on fibre-filled adventures over the course of the year.

We started the day with our usual chatter and conversations whilst spinning, weaving and generally catching up. Those delivering their talks set out their wares for us to admire. Don’t you just love fibre related “stuff”??

The talks kicked off with a guided tour of Norfolk and Norwich with a display of items from museums and exhibitions. The talents of others were discussed and enthused over along with a personal family-tree connection to famous families of the region.

We also took ourselves off on a tour of Shetland during Wool Week. Wow, what a place, and so beautifully described. I think most of us had already mentally booked up courses and accommodation for next year before the talk ended! One of our newest members is positively inspirational and we all had a good chat afterwards about the knitting methods and the work she brought along.

We were able to visit Scandinavian inspired works and the V&A museum in Dundee and examined articles made and treasured and we even took ourselves off to New Zealand for a while!!

NZ is of course, a very woolly kind of place and to have one of our members spend time living on one of Dunedin’s most famous streets, “the world’s steepest street”, captured our imagination. We all agreed that the Kiwis have it right in making yarn for baby clothes in natural colours….why ever do we have lurid pinks and blues when there is such a range of natural, and incredibly soft, yarns. Maybe we should start an import business?? Or simply spin our own!

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During the day it struck me again just what a lovely group Durham Guild is. We had a visit from a potential new member who braved walking in with her father’s loom, recently brought down from the loft. She wanted to know if it was worth repairing as she really wanted to learn how to weave. This sparked up great interest as it was in very good condition considering its age. With input from our lovely and talented “fixer”, and some quick discussions among members she left a little while later having secured some one-to-one weaving lessons offered by two of our gathering, and parts of the loom were taken off for some TLC.

IMG_0310Later in the day, as we were winding down a little, we were visited by two farmers who owned rare-breed sheep and had heard about us. Both wanted to learn to spin and weave their own fleeces. They were full of life, totally curious and keen to try their hand. One lady had a go at hand carding and the other had a go at drop-spindling, taking some hand-spun away with her! Both so lovely and so interested! New members are always welcome and although many of our group had left already those remaining were keen to share their passion for fibre.


After getting home that evening I got to reliving the day and wondered what the feeling was that the day had left me with.

There had been chatter, coffee and cake. There had been hugs and smiles for those we had not seen in a while. There had been much laughter. There had been applause and curious questions for our speakers. There had been sharing and encouragement. There had been future planning and suggestions for taking our passion to a wider audience. There had been talk of traditions, skills and a harking back to the good-old-days when things were done with pride, when we worked with our hands and could be self-sufficient…and our desire to do it again. We chatted of how good it felt to be able to wear a garment that had been taken from the shearing of the fleece right through to an item of clothing. More than one of us were wearing their home spun, hand dyed, and hand knitted garments.

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We were harking back, but actually we are taking it all forward. This world sometimes need to stop a while and reflect. The talented men and women of Durham guild are doing that and taking something very special into the future.

That feeling I was left with?? Happy. It was simply the happiest of days.

2 thoughts on “Harking Back to the Future

  1. Wow Soo I am so blessed to read this wonderful blog. It is not only filled with beautiful photos and elements of the passion brought about by people who love to work with fibre, but it is also an emotional piece (for me anyway) learning of the community there is, within the family of Durham Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers. Thank you


  2. Joshua lavender Nov 22, 2018 — 10:23 pm

    Just feel so blessed to have join this loving and passonate guild. I’m in awe of the craftmanship and skill of every member past, prestant and no doubt in the future too. Let’s see where it takes us on path learning, prosscessing and passing long our knowledge to the next person’s. Thank you fellow fibre friends


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