Sew…in the Beginning

Sew…in the Beginning

Deep in the Depths of Winter…

We had the unenviable task and expense of renovating the shop in the depths of Winter.

This involved replacing the window and door lintels which were so wet and rotten you could push your finger through them, as well as the windows and door which had eroded behind the boards which had covered them up for decades and the cause of the damp marching across the ceiling.

We had leaks from just about everywhere, I dreaded the rain as it was like living under the cover of a sieve.  The only thing that didn’t leak in our house/shop were the legion of buckets catching all the rain water (inside).

We removed all of the wet plaster off the walls and stripped it right back to the bare brick.  We re-pointed, insulated, re-boarded, re-plastered, re-decorated, rewired, re-plumbed it and installed heating. With the exception of the plastering my husband and I did all the work ourselves (luckily he is a fully qualified electrician).  It was difficult as my husband works full time and we have a child with special needs.  It was a big job!

Self Employment is Not Glamorous!

If anyone ever tells you that being self-employed is an easy glamorous businesses, please check for understanding as you probably misheard.

My Husband insisted that I put this suit on.  It was necessary, he said. Hmmm.  As you can see, looking like a picture of, well…, let’s just say not looking my best, I prepared to tackle the leaking Shop Window and not for the first time Brush and trowel in hand about to set to work, looking as though I’ve lost the will to live rather than enthusiastic.

Honestly?  I wish ‘He’ were the one wearing this Suit he was enjoying it far too much if you ask me.

Room with a View

Ripping out, tearing down, moving walls, removing ceilings, plumbing, wiring and levelling the concrete floor and stripping the door and that was the smallest (although made bigger) room.

This door was the original front door to the property before it was a shop.  It led directly into the hallway leading to the staircase which had been moved previously. We have still kept the original hallway tiles to retain the character and history of the building.  It was boarded up from the outside and shelves ran down the length of the wall when it was a shop.  This is what we found when we stripped it all out and removed the boarding.  Horror!!


Steamy Windows

This was only surpassed by the state of the Windows, which were sash.  It would have been good if we could have restored them but as you can see they were rotten through and through the only thing keeping them in situ was the outside boarding and the props which without doubt were helping to prop the ceiling up. Behind the boarding you could get not only your arm through the gap at the top of the window frame but your whole shoulder blade as well. This was when we discovered that the wooden lintels were shot too.  I was wondering at this point how on earth none of this was picked up during the building survey we paid for.

From The Get Go

We started renovating this property from the ‘Get Go’ in 2008 when we purchased the Shop (just in the nick of time for the down turn in the economy and the Government’s decision to shut the majority of rural Post Offices) and before we knew that we had a child with special and additional needs.

We started with the leaking roof and worked our way down removing the rear Chimney stack which only served as an efficient water funnel to direct rain water down the inside of the gable wall and worked our way down.  With the exception of the House Kitchen which is still to do, and the ceiling in the living room and replace the multi-fuel burner (which is condemned) and line the Chimney, nothing to do here!


My middle Son, whose bedroom was up in what was referred to as the loft conversion whom has a propensity for exaggeration complained that the draft in this bedroom parted his hair when he was asleep.  It was probably only a small exaggeration to be fair.

Every square inch of the property was covered with woodchip wallpaper covered with decades of high gloss paint. The loft hatch used to lift up and move with the wind.

This picture is of the main shop. You can see the concrete replacement lintels and the need to repoint the internal bricks.  It was the first time it had ever seen any insulation.

The picture below is where the rain water came down the Chimney and the pavement slabs that you can see the underside of letting the rain water through are situated in the fireplace recess in the living room above!

Just Paint it He Said …

I lost count of how many bags of cement we used re pointing mostly just loose rubble with the odd brick here and there after we removed the loose and wet plaster which was just falling off without too much persuasion.

My Mother said to me “Michelle, what on earth possessed you to want to buy this place, did you have rose coloured glasses on”?  I went on to reply something like “It was all Steve’s idea, and I think his glasses must have been covered in tarmac”.

I feel that we have achieved something here against all the odds and so when we do leave this place and move on or life leaves us whichever comes first we leave behind a building fit to stand for over another 100 years or so…

It has been a huge challenge and commitment and not without receiving more than our fair share of backlash for us not being in a position to continue to run the Shop as a general store. We feel that when our offer for it to be a Community Shop was not utilised it was better to refurbish and for it to be used for something that I could combine with my priority of being a parent with a child with additional needs and combine them in the best way possible rather than leave it empty.  A lady once said to me “When Life gives you Lemons, make Lemonade”.


Wesley’s Mum is a Spinner

Wesley’s Mum is a Spinner

Looking out of my Shop Window at the incredible view across the fields of the Yorkshire Dales National Park in the shadow of Pen-y-ghent and Sheep out of every aspect I started to wonder if there were any local Spinners.  I googled to see where the nearest were located and found none.

I started to wonder, who was the last person in my family who last hand spun yarn using a Spinning Wheel for clothing out of necessity and because it was as common place as a Sewing Machine was in nearly every home during the 1930s and 40s.  Who was that? Where did they live?  How long ago was it? Who taught them?

I am fascinated by the Age Old Arts and Crafts and have a curiosity to explore them.  Point of reference being my starting place of having more enthusiasm than ability and Know How.  However, the time was right and I am definitely in the right place so liberally apply enthusiasm and let’s get Spinning.  As a lovely lady at Spinning group Doris gave me a lovely encouraging smile and said “you have got lots of enthusiasm”.

I placed a post on ‘Crafters Soup’ facebook page for local Spinners and the reply was Wesley’s Mom is a Spinner.  Wesley’s Mom is a lady called Josie and lives in the next town to me 7 miles away, rurally speaking practically next door.

I telephoned Josie the next day and Wesley drove Josie to meet me at the Shop and we had tea and a chat about Spinning and she looked over my Spinning Wheel which I had bought on line and placed in my Shop window.  This was bought as a decorative piece for show as it was small, antique and has pride of place.  Josie was very kind and commented that it was very nice although it does have a few issues and things missing.  In fact, it has also been ravaged by wood worm here and there too.  Let’s just say that it is a Character piece.

Yorkshire sheepPictured here are two of Josie’s sheep.  One of which (Drifter seen below chilling in his stable on a fresh bed of shavings he shares with a few other sheep and Donkeys) was being drove down the lane among a flock of other sheep (mules a cross breed between a Swaledale and a Blue faced Leicester bred for the meat trade) on route to fulfil their destiny of a relatively short lived life prior to being served at table when he decided as a career choice he had other ideas.

He jumped over the wall to join Josie’s sheep instead and has never looked back.  Josie alerted the local farming fraternity as to the eloper but no-one came forward to claim him.  One very lucky Sheep indeed.  He resides with three Donkeys and three other Sheep and enjoys the odd polo now and then and has lived a very long and privileged life.

Josie invited me along to the Local Spinning Group based in Settle!  Not everything is on Google, who knew?  I was welcomed into the Group and as a Newbie found it invaluable.  Josie provided me with a Spinning Wheel on loan as well as everything I needed to get started.  This also included some lovely batts of washed and carded (combed into a light and fluffy wool candy floss) for spinning from her own pet Jacob sheep tended and raised by Josie in Settle.

spinning YorkshireIt is quite an art just getting the Wheel to spin.  I very excitedly exclaimed to my Husband “Look, I’m doing it, I’m doing it”.  (No fleece or yarn involved at this stage) He looked over and said “No, you are not, you are going the wrong way, you are spinning the wheel anti clock wise and not clockwise”.  Getting terribly frustrated he helpfully explained to a woman who still struggles with left and right never mind clock wise and aniti clockwise “Righty tighty / lefty loosey”  Light Bulb Moment!  Made all the difference in the world.

Having overcome the mechanics of spinning the wheel in a desired direction I was then further challenged with bits literally flying off across the living room.  Bobbins at first, until I realised that the string attached to a spring (tension) had fallen off.  Then the flyer (a two pronged fork construction with hooks attached) started to take flight and was also flung far and wide.  I was in despair as despite its name that was definitely not the function.  It was fine whilst the wheel was motionless but as soon as the wheel started to spin it took flight.  I had a sleepless night worrying about how I was going to explain to Josie that I had broken her Spinning Wheel.  The next morning I just happen to place my hand on an upright wooden part of the wheel and it moved!  Ha Ha!  Phew.  I told Josie about it and she just smiled and said “It’s alright, you can’t break it, it’s all just about adjustment”.

My next challenge was trying not to let the whole fleece disappear into the orifice in it’s entirety and me with it and wrap around the bobbin.  There were many hours of grappling with it rather than as I had observed people doing at Spinning group feed it effortlessly and often whilst chatting and not even looking whilst doing it.

spinning Another light bulb moment I was trying to pull and tease the wool forward when actually it is the complete opposite!  It is pulled back (drafted), and the tension released by index finger and thumb allowing the twist to travel along and from then onwards Spinning was a lot more relaxing and pleasurable.

Pictured below my first knit from my first hand spun yarn made for my Husband and I went on to make three more for the men in my family for Christmas.  Could well come under the Category of “You can’t buy these in the Shops” and thank goodness for that!  But Hey, we all have to start to somewhere, right? I wonder what my ancestor the last Spinner in our family would make of it?

So, that was the process and end result but…

The journey and experience totally took me by surprise.  The people I met I found inspirational, encouraging and fascinating.  Not only that, but now I have half an eye on weaving as well as this seems to be a natural addition to Spinning.  There are countless techniques to the yarn and wool that can be spun and weaved.

I attended a meeting at the local Guild for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers and intend to become a member.  I received a very warm welcome.  I was very impressed with the show and tell and the items which had been made by some of the more experienced members.   I kept my hat under my hat, as it were.

I still have a lot to learn and to perfect in the art of Spinning.  My Spin nosediving in freefall with flying debris is thankfully behind me and I guess my output now is towards the end of Utilitarian but I can build upon and improve on that. On driving around I now find myself looking at the various sheep in the fields and saying to myself “Oh, I bet that fleece would be good to spin”.  It is not at all unusual for me to acquire the odd fleece here and there and can be seen driving around with them in the back of my car.  I had to draw the line though when a lady at Guild was downsizing and asked me if I was interested in a couple of Alpacas.

I have been known to return home on occasion and casually inform my Husband of a Giant Rabbit, cats, dogs, a pony and a couple of horses, although not all at the same time (except the horses).  Sheep and Alpacas, well never say never.

Josie firmly denies having been any kind of Mentor saying that she only got me started and I taught myself.  However, she is my Mentor as well as everyone at Spinning Group and Guild and I a Mentee.  A Mentor helps you to see the destination but not necessarily provides you with a detailed map of how to get there was the definition.  Which is arguably the best way to learn and grow.  So to everyone who has helped and encouraged me, from loaning of equipment, books, smiles and words of encouragement to jumping on my wheel for a few moments and sorting out my tension and applying some much needed oil from their tool box to alleviate my laboured wheel and squeaky treadle peddle thank you.

Did I ever think that I would live in the middle of no-where, at the foot of a mountain and find myself Spinning?  No, of course not.  Well, you don’t do you?