Upon arrival it was clear that fewer people were there than at the previous year's event and then Leslie - their Chairman - announced that the Lavenham guild had been called upon by the National Trust to demonstrate at another event so we were a team down as well. The upshot of all this was that a decision was made that due to lack of numbers we wouldn't attempt the scarves that we'd done the previous year - instead we were all to make 9" squares for a project by Oxfam to make a huge patchwork blanket to be sent to the government as a patchwork petition - as a protest against the number of women who die unnecessarily in childbirth every year -
These would later be broken up and sold in Oxfam stores to raise money. We were all up for this as it's such a worthy project so off we went in our little teams and started spinning the beautiful dyed fuzz that was available for us - all provided and prepared by one of Mid Essex's members.
Grange Barn is an amazing building and it has a wonderfully calm atmosphere - it's a great place to spin, especially with like minded people with whom to chat while working. There are a couple of old carts and some weird and wonderful farm equipment as well as various displays about the history of the building and others that are similar.
The day gradually warmed up - the atmosphere was already very warm and welcoming - and as time went on more people arrived - some to join in and some to watch. It was nice to catch up with another guilds news and swap tips and stories. There were some fantastic displays that various members of the Mid Essex Guild had set out Jackie Crook had a table full of luscious samples of all her natural dyeing plus signed copies of her book for sale. Jill Goodwin was there with more naturally dyed samples. There was a truly fabulous selection of hand made items for sale at ridiculous prices - truly made for the love and not the money! I bought my first christmas pressy here - a beautiful little bag made with deliciously soft and silky angora - the fibre was also for sale. I also saw two items of clothing that I WANTED..... a grey angora sweater which turned out to be slightly too small and a wrap around serape thingumy in amazing reds (made by Lesley - see below, also her lovely blue woolly).
photo of serape by Lesley Ottewell
Becky Poynter of http://www.yarnsmith.co.uk/ was there and being very helpful with us novice knitters. Rather fortuitously she had a selection of bamboo knitting needles for sale - which we needed for the squares as they required a different gauge to the scarves that we had been preparing to knit. I actually borrowed Hazel's needles, she then borrowed Hillary's needles and Hillary went and bought some bamboo needles from Becky!
There was also a display from Melford Alpacas - the fleece in the middle of the table was the softest I'd ever felt - I just wanted to make a nest in it! There was quite a selection of yarns and fibres available from super super fine to moderately coarse for felting. We were told that alpaca fibre is non-allergenic which I didn't know previously.
Oh gosh there was lots more to see and so many people to talk to - it's amazing that we got any work done at all. We did though - in our little group only Hilary finished her square - through sheer bloody mindedness - she was still working whilst we were packing up around her! I've almost finished mine - I need to put a border on it as it's not quite 9". There were a few squares handed in towards the end of the day - by the quicker knitters (or maybe they spent less time nattering and more time focusing on the job at hand!) - well done to all those who finished.
It turned out, once again, to be a wonderful day - full of interest and we were made very welcome - bring on next year's fleece to garment day!