Craft group that has the Northern Fells in a spin

Date: Friday 10th November 2017
Organiser Carol Hine watches Jo Hardy and Vernon Heslop spinning their wool.
Organiser Carol Hine watches Jo Hardy and Vernon Heslop spinning their wool.

IT began as a result of mistaken identity. A “spinning” group was starting in the Northern Fells — and it was causing quite a stir.

Linda Bales (left) and Jean Thompson balling a hank of hand-dyed wool.
Linda Bales (left) and Jean Thompson balling a hank of hand-dyed wool.
Audrey Johnston drum carding Shetland wool.
Audrey Johnston drum carding Shetland wool.
Nancy Alty working on her weaving sampler.
Nancy Alty working on her weaving sampler.

However, while this spinning group was one involving exercise bikes, the one everyone seemed to be interested in was one involving yarn.

So, in an effort to meet public demand, Northern Fells Group village agent Philippa Groves contacted Sebergham resident Carol Hine and they decided to start one.

The Northern Fells spinning and wool-crafts group was born in April, 2015, and has steadily grown since to a membership of about 17 people, from beginners to accomplished spinners. It soon expanded to include lots of other wool-crafts, including felting, knitting, crochet, weaving and even dyeing.

Vernon Heslop, aged 86, began spinning at the age of 14. He recalls being taught by the local vicar where he grew up, at Abbeytown. “He could spin flax on a wheel he’d made with two heads, so was spinning two at a time,” recalls Vernon of his accomplished teacher.

Vernon, who now lives at Tracentree, near Rosley, initially joined a spinning group at Mungrisdale, but now attends the group at Millhouse village hall, which meets every other Wednesday at 2pm.

Despite being the only man, he says it is a friendly group and he has been made very welcome.

Jo Hardy, sitting next to him, is at the other end of the scale in terms of experience. She is relatively new to spinning and first attended the group about 18 months ago.

Jo, of Longlands, has spent many years working for the British Antarctic Survey, but, in her spare time, enjoys felting. Spinning seemed a natural progression to her. “I wanted to spin my own art yarns to incorporate in my felts,” she said. “I enjoy it a lot and I thought I would give it a go.”

Newcomers to spinning are given the benefit of the advice of Carol, who taught herself to spin about 30 years ago.

“I didn’t like to think that fleeces were going to waste and I don’t like to be defeated by a craft,” she admitted. “I’ll have a go at pretty much any craft. I haven’t done blacksmithing yet or glassblowing.”

Other members also bring their own expertise to the table in crafts ranging from wet-felting and needle-felting to peg or table loom weaving.

Carol, a retired headteacher, said members had made everything from scarves to slippers and laptop bags using the various techniques being shared at the group.

Gwyn Hunt is the resident expert on weaving and Jo in felt-making. She and Carol are even studying for a City and Guilds qualification in advanced textile design.

The spinning group now has several spinning wheels of its own to loan out and some members bring their own.

Such is the interest in spinning and wool-crafts that an open day the group held in August attracted more than 100 people. “I can’t believe how many people are interested in doing this,” said Carol.

Anyone interested in giving it a try can contact Carol by calling 016974 76308 or village agent for Castle Sowerby and Mungrisdale Philippa Groves on 016974 78555 or e-mail

* The Northern Fells Group will be hosting an art and craft fair at Mungrisdale Village Hall on 24th, 25th and 26th November, at 6pm-8pm (preview evening), 10-30am-4-30pm and 10-30am-3pm respectively, at which some of the group’s work can be seen. Visitors can buy unique Christmas gifts, original paintings, photographs, pottery, jewellery, cards and calendars, leatherwork, home-baking and local produce, as well as wool-crafts.