I went bleary-eyed to Lister Community School in Newham the other day – not used to an early start these days. The class had been looking at sustainability so I made a pincer approach of natural dyeing and flax. This is the work they produced in class. I was so impressed that they were actually listening!
One of the girls also wrote a piece for the school blog. http://www.lister.newham.sch.uk/specialist-curriculum-textiles-may/
This is the key to a technique for flax spinning we learnt last night: dampen your knee. What’s great about our flax to thread sessions is that the people who come are so skilled and cover such a wide range of interests from sowing to… er… sewing. Last Thursday at the London College of Fashion we had growers from community gardens and allotments, spinners and knitters, technical innovators and fashion designers. We honed two methods of spinning; one using the drill method. I now know you must wet the fibre to help it bond to itself and that you must turn the drill anti-clockwise to make the magic really work. The other technique, which gardener, designer and teacher Dina demonstrated, used no equipment apart from the above-mentioned damp knee, and involved rolling the heckled fibre on a leg see our Knee-Spinning video. We also got an excellent new model for our garment – Benjamin. He wears it very well. Kellie also models the string she made – as a stylish belt.
I met Aaron through Twitter. Last year in the midst of the flax project, I scoured the electronic world for spinners and we found each other. He was willing to spin the flax and, not only that, spin in primary schools with scores of excited children buzzing round him. And then repeat.
He came to the little exhibition Zoe Burt put on at Brockwell Park House – featuring the garment. It was such a joy to see him again and relive those rather fraught sessions at the schools and to remind ourselves what we’d achieved. We also marvelled at the work of spinners. Without them, no fabric. It doesn’t matter how much processing you do to fibre, without someone to twist it, there is no thread, no strength. That makes spinners powerful and reinforces the fact that a spinster was, because of her skill, able to make a living. She didn’t need to get married. She was independent. We should reclaim the word from its negative associations – but that is another matter.
Back to Aaron. He’d brought his spinning wheel to the exhibition and spun away – showing some visitors how to do it, too. He works for TfL to make a living but his love is spinning and knitting and that makes him happy. I said he was the Philip Larkin of the knitting world – supporting his art with a mundane job. Making beautiful things, working hard and being quite content with that.
Thanks, Aaron. It was a great collaboration.
He seems to be willing to do it again so hopefully we can continue our partnership and throw ourselves back into those classrooms and break, scutch, heckle and spin with those buzzing children. Hurrah!
To mark London Fashion Week, we present the story of a slow, unfashionable piece of clothing. Grow a Garment Press Release1