As promised in the last post, here’s the report on the demonstration I took part in during the Turkish Flat Weaves Exhibition Family Activities Day at the Hallie Ford Museum in Salem.
First a little back story. A number of months ago Diana, aka Chewiedox on Ravelry, called and asked if I’d like a piece of a Mandak fleece purchased directly from Turkey! Would I! She sent the fleece along with the very interesting book, “Root of the Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery and Lore of the Persian Carpet” by Brian Murphy for Ed to read. When a few weeks later I was asked to take part in the hands-on demonstration day at the museum my mind immediately lept to the fleece which I hadn’t yet done anything with other than to look at it and take a couple of pictures. Diana had been told that it had been cleaned but we were both in for a lesson on what others claim as clean, and presumably spin like this. It wasn’t bad, just not what I’m used to handling as a “clean” fleece. In fact, it was much like the 3 fleeces I’ve worked on so far before I washed them: A distinct feel of lanolin, some vegetable matter and poo bits. Not filthy.
The Mandak has long hairs outside with a softer, shorter undercoat that has a “will stand up to lots of use” feel. The underside – the roughly sheared/cut side was very matted, almost felted in places which was a challenge to work with.
What fortunate timing to have as a display piece for the demo! A year ago I purchased two ancient Turkish spindles off of eBay – also coming straight from the seller in Turkey. The well worn spindles were each estimated to be over a hundred years old. I love holding these spindles, thinking of the hands that purposely used them for spinning all sorts of items necessary to their lives.
Several days before the demo I sat in the sunshine and attempted to get a feel for how to manage the Mandak wool. A cashmere pick and a dog comb worked better than hand carders. Pulling off small bits at a time I prepped about a fourth of the wool then spun a small sample and put the rest of the wool in a basket. Finding an old picture of a Turkish woman using “tepeed” pitched combs I decided to take my English combs for the display, along with one of the ancient spindles and an assortment of Ed’s spindles, hand-carders, a bump of BFL top, as well as the Mandak wool.
There was also an area of tables with piles of bright yarns for people to learn weaving using a simple cardboard square with notches and a large plastic darning needle. Children and their parents thronged that table the entire afternoon, as well at as the table presided by Pam Patrie who had set up three warped tapestry looms with locks of colorful wool for people to weave using a technique similar to of one of the largest hangings in the display.
Over 240 people came to see the exhibit that afternoon, many of them children eager to try their hands at everything! All three of us worked non-stop teaching young and old our craft. Rather than have them struggle with the Mandak, after explaining that it was wool from the sheep that grow in Turkey I’d let them feel it. Some wanted to see the combing or carding process, especially with the dangerous looking English combs. (I even managed to spin some of the wool directly from the comb after Pam asked me for a demo shortly after we’d finished setting up.) For the most part everyone wanted to spin a length of wool that we then plyed and wrapped around their arms as a bracelet. I received a sweet Thank You note from the PR coordinator that she knew one little girl who still hadn’t taken off her bracelet several days later.
One young girl stands out in my memory. She was very interested in the spinning process and quickly took to making yarn. Her dad was also fascinated and so while she kept spinning away we got to talking. Turned out he grew up in Iran where many people still spun and wove. He’d also recently spent some time in Turkey and said if one gets far enough away from the urban areas there are still people who spin and weave kilims, the exquisite rugs that put me in mind of Navajo weaving as both cultures use vertical looms.
Ed went with me and took some videos of people learning. I have yet to upload the pictures from that camera to this laptop! My trusty old Sony camera seems to be on its last shots. It’s been harder to correctly capture colors, pictures are blurred, and lots of times the settings don’t work well anymore. As one of those people who is adverse to new gadgets, hates change and spending money for something I don’t particularly want I’m not keen on getting a new camera.