Birmingham Weavers, Spinners ​and Dyers

Blog for Birmingham & District ​Guild of Weavers, Spinners ​and Dyers


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Back to Back Challenge

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

For the June meeting of the Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, we ran a Back-to-Back Challenge at Lickey Hills Visitor Centre.

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

My understanding of the history of the Back to Back Challenge, is that the initial inspiration for the challenge is the Newbury Coat. In 1811, in the village of Newbury, a Baronet allegedly made a large bet that a local mill owner could produce a tailored coat in one day. In thirteen hours and ten minutes, those workers involved sheared a sheep, washed, spun and wove the wool into cloth, the cloth was then scoured and dyed, and finally tailors cut and sewed the cloth into a formal hunting coat. The Baronet sat down to dinner wearing the coat at the end of the day.

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

The original Newbury Coat challenge celebrated contemporary developments in mill machinery, but in 1992 the Back to Back Challenge was created to raise funds for charity by producing a hand-knit sweater from a fleece in a day (I believe the World Record is less than 5 hours). Official Back to Back Challenge entries need to follow set rules, so our Guild Back to Back challenge was more informal. Rather than starting by shearing a sheep, we started with a local Romney fleece, unwashed but pre-sheared. Participation was open to all interested members of the Guild and visitors, with everyone contributing depending on their skills/preference, including carding, spinning, plying, and lots of knitting.

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

We didn’t quite complete a full garment during the day (our event took place from roughly 09:30-05:15), but we got very close, with just a little knitting and seaming left to do to complete an adult’s oversized cardigan, from a pattern designed by Guild member, Wendy.

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

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Sandwell Park Farm Wooly Week

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

A few Guild members spent a sunny Friday demonstrating at Wooly Week at Sandwell Park Farm. The farm is located in a restored Victorian farm, with walled kitchen gardens, a tea room, and a number of rare breed animals.

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Shearing demonstrations were taking place throughout the day, and Guild members were demonstrating carding and spinning to attendees.

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week


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A Trip to Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds

On Bank Holiday Monday, six members of the Guild took the opportunity to visit Harcourt Rare Breeds. The Harcourt flock is split over two sites, with one of those sites relatively local to  Birmingham Guild in Market Bosworth, and the other in Harrogate.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds

The Midlands flock is housed in fields behind the house of owner Shaun, so it was very kind of Shaun to welcome members of the Guild into his home for a generous lunch, and into his garden to meet the sheep.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Suitably enough, to reach Harcourt Rare Breeds we traveled through the parish of Sheepy, which contains the villages of Sheepy Magna and Sheepy Parva. As you can guess from their name, Harcourt specialise in rare breed British sheep; Border Leicester, Leicester Longwool, Portland, Hebridean, Coloured Ryland, and Greyface Dartmore.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds sell both fleeces and prepared yarn. The spinners amongst us purchased fleece, and two Guild members bought skeins of yarn. Shaun also gave each of us a goodie bag of fleece! The photos below shows Leicester Longwool fleece, alongside prepared yarn from the flock.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

There are quite a few lambs in the flock currently, and one came into the house to visit us to our delight.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Shaun will be attending the October 2016 Guild meeting to talk about Harcourt Rare Breeds, and will be bringing fleece and yarn for sale.