2011 Annual Report

It is amazing that the first year of my ‘chairwomanship’ is ending already; it has been an eventful year, starting with the Celebration of Spinning Open day and ending with the Guild’s first Fleece sale. What has inspired me throughout the year is how many members have given their support, in many cases without asking, and how well we work together as a team. I have also valued how new members are warmly welcomed into our friendly fold. I would like to say a big thank you to all for your contributions and to those that have played an active part in making this a successful year.

In my nomination ‘vision’ I proposed to try and achieve the following over the three year period of being Chair:

* Improved communication within and beyond the membership
* Providing a transparent decision making and organisational framework
* Retaining the ethos of friendship and sharing and inspiration
* Providing resources, support and inspiration to a growing membership
* Helping others to teach the skill of long draw
* Researching and translating traditional knowledge and skills to a younger generation
* Raising funds: initially for GOLDS to own a Great Wheel for teaching and demonstrations.

At the 2010 AGM I suggested that we had a newsletter and a new committee role of a Membership Secretary. Heather offered to do both of these for us. The newsletter has been praised by many members as a new way to keep them informed and involved. We intend to publish the newsletter three times a year and Heather has done a fabulous job in designing and editing, and her creativity is extremely valuable to the Guild: she also has been promoting the Guild in Ravelry and on twitter! Membership remains at £10 a year but I will appeal to members to make sure they renew their membership soon after 1st January each year regardless at what time of year you initially joined in previous years. This change is to make it easier to keep records and track our membership and to ensure that you receive newsletters and additional information. We also want you to tell us if you have changed your contact details, otherwise we will not be able to get in touch with you.

Another way to improve communication throughout the Guild, regardless of where we live is through our website. We have had many discussions in committee meetings about how to improve the website or whether to start a new one but we would need to invest a large amount of money to start a new web site all over again. The existing website has many restrictions as we cannot upload photos directly or add more dynamic features. However, despite these difficulties I wish to thank Norma as she has been continually striving to make the website more attractive to our members and to passing browsers. She has made available minutes of committee meetings and AGMs, up-dates to our diary and notices of events and we do have a limited picture gallery. Once you have your username and password (you can ask for a reminder if you have lost these), you can look through hints and tips, add comments or start new discussion topics. We would very much like your suggestions on what other resources would be useful and ideas how to develop this area of the Guild’s membership support. In addition to the website Heather and I manage a discussion forum called ‘long draw spinners’ on the Ravelry website (www.ravelry.com).

One little project relating to the website is to catalogue where we could find our historic heritage relating to Long draw spinning. I have started to compose a list on the website of where the last remaining Great Wheels are on view to the public in Museums and other locations. Who knows, there may be one near you or you could pop into see one whilst on holiday or visiting somewhere close by – perhaps you know of one and could add it to the list? I have to thank my daughter for accessing some of the information through her links in Archaeology. Another activity, funded by the University of Northampton (part of my job!) funded Heather (with her Nude Ewe hat on) and I to research the possibility of processing wool locally. This was an academic research project so we researched the history of wool and found out a lot about the wool industry in Northamptonshire. We also had the opportunity to visit Coldharbour Mill in Devon and the mill at The Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall. I am hoping this research will help the Guild too as we are also getting a better idea of how cottage industries worked before the industrial revolution and how the development of new social enterprises may be relevant in the future of British wool and for future generations. If you wish to see our research paper please contact me.

The Celebration of Spinning event was an open day which was in local newsletters, press and on Ravelry. In all 15 visitors attended and new members joined. Pam kindly offered to give taster spinning lessons upstairs and she was very busy all day. We had demonstrations of drop spindling from Lisa Burnett, plus impromptu help with spinning, carding and knitting techniques, offered freely by members. Eve had her fabulous fleeces for sale and Heather brought goodies from Nude Ewe. We did not know how many people would turn up but it was a very enjoyable with visitors who chose to spend most of the day with us.

In October, we decided to reorder cotton bags with the GOLDS logo and we initially priced these at £7.50. However sales have been extremely slow, so we have now reduced the price to £5 a bag. This price will now raise approximately 0.60p per bag for the Guild funds. If you do not have one I can thoroughly recommend them; they are roomy and made of high quality cotton.

Sally kindly offered to fill the Treasurer role from Linda. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Linda for the help she has given to Sally in the hand over period. Sally had to work through the paper work to transfer the bank account details and get to grips with a new spreadsheet to keep detailed accounts and I thank her for her diligence and support.

For members who can get to Stoke Albany our inspiration meetings continue to inspire. It is great to see so much creativity and talent and see how people are developing their skills. We had Christmas Chinese dumplings and we played with Kool Aid dyes in the New Year, and meetings through the spring were highlighted by our (now annual) visit to Eve’s small holding to see how her flock of Zwartbles, Jacob and Debouillet are doing. We also enjoy watching the new season lambs bouncing around. Eve provided a delicious buffet and we all had a lovely evening.

We have done fewer outreach workshops and talks this year. A team of us supported Pam in here whole day work shop for the Felter’s in return for their workshop for us and Ros very kindly stepped in to do a talking for Stannion Women’s Club who kindly donated £30 to our Great Wheel fund. We attended two Public events this year; Woolfest and the new Fibre East. Norma, Heather, Rachel and Carolyn offered to come and help at Woolfest. On route (after getting on the wrong road with a slight detour through Derbyshire) Norma and I, followed by Heather, stopped off at Val and David’s home in Knutsford, Cheshire to pick up their Great Wheel. Val and David kindly loaned us their wheel for the summer, and we enjoyed a welcome cup of tea and lovely piece of David’s Birthday cake. David has estimated that it will be around £900 to commission our own wheel but it was great to borrow theirs for our major events this summer. The weekend in Cockermouth was the busiest yet. Over 5,000 people attended the event and the five of us were talking, demonstrating and teaching non-stop most of the time. The Great Wheel was a huge attraction and it is a fantastic way to show and teach the long draw spinning technique. Another attraction was Norma’s knitted bunting with knitted sheep, and the ‘Northamptonshire Knitted Bench’ from the Trevor Pitt ‘flock of benches’ project. If you remember, the Guild spun Hebridean fleeces for in December 2009 and January 2010. A surprising number of men were attracted to our stand (we think it was the Great Wheel) and we taught a number of very young people and experienced short draw spinners to spin long draw.

Fibre East was an unknown quantity, as it was the first wool festival to be held in the Eastern region of the UK. It was a wonderful event, held in a farmer’s field in the north of Bedfordshire. Norma, Rachel, Carolyn, Sally, Jane and Ros replied to our appeal for help. Situated in the entrance of a marquee, Norma weaved her magic with the help of Carolyn and Rachel to create a lovely display. Again the Great Wheel was a huge hit. Ros volunteered to represent the Guild and help with the ‘back to back’ event where a shearer sheared a sheep and a team of spinners and knitters created an article of clothing in the shortest time possible. The weather was a bit wet on the Friday evening before the start of the event (I was camping!), but the sun shone for both days and there was a wonderfully relaxed English country fair atmosphere.

The last significant event was our first official ‘Fleece Bring and Buy Sale’. Again members who attended were fantastic getting Wilbarston Village Hall ready for visitors and it was brilliant how we all worked so well as a team. We had Norfolk Horn, Kerry Hill, Zwartbles, Portland, Jacob and Shetland for sale and over thirty fleeces were sold that directly benefitted our members. We also had kind donations of fleeces, knitting patterns and wool to help with the GOLDS Great Wheel Fund raising. A total of 19 people attended this event, which was publicized through leaflets and posters, emails and on Ravelry. The call for cake resulted in a tremendous array of delicious masterpieces which went down very well. This event was so successful in raising the profile of the Guild to local spinning Guilds, supporting small flocks of rare breeds and raising funds for the Guild that I would like us to do again next year but with more publicity and cake!

Well I think I will close this report now, as it seems to be getting a little on the long side. I have really enjoyed this year and I value the friendships that I have made within the Guild even more. I would like you all to know that I am always open to suggestions or ideas about the future of the Guild and ways of encouraging the skill of long draw spinning. If you have any concerns about how the Guild is run or is developing I hope that you feel that you can approach me by email, phone or in person.

Thank to everyone again for your support