Longest Thread (First Attempt).
In 1994 I met Barbara Fowler of Bothwell Tasmania, she was over here on a visit and to promote the "Longest Thread" competition. I had never attempted to spin fine yarn as I don't knit fine lace and could see no immediate use for it but the idea of spinning such a fine thread caught my imagination and I decided to have a go.
I knew I would have to use the highest ratio I could find and decided to try out my Ashford Traditional with a ratio of 16:1 my first attempt went very well, I spun what I thought was a fine yarn, plied it and measured it and took it down to the post office and had it weighed. Disaster it was only about 300 yards long, the record was 553 metres.
I went home and looked at what I had done and decided to start from scratch with a different fibre and a different wheel.
This time I washed some English bred Merino in boiling water and combed it using my Louet mini combs, I drew out the sliver until it was very thin and set to work fine tuning my P & M Woolcraft wheel. This is a beautiful oak wheel made specially for me and paid for with a legacy from my grandmother, (it is also the wheel in my logo) although the ratio is not high about 10:1 it has a super smooth action and I can adjust the bobbin tension to almost nothing. I started again and was amazed at how much finer my yarn was coming out, I took my time and after a number of months finally took the finished yarn off. I again measured and weighed the thread but was not too happy, I thought it was probably still not a record breaker and I knew I could do it if I really tried.
However I decided to send it off anyway as the whole point of the competition is to spin a thread of friendship, I found my entry form and couldn't believe my eyes, I had mis-read it and my thread would not get to Tasmania by the deadline!!
Perhaps someone was trying to tell me something I thought, maybe I was destined not to enter this competition, or maybe I was just supposed to get the darned thing right!
I left off for a year and did some other things as the next competition wasn't until 1997. I started again in 1996, as the deadline was September (I double checked) I gave myself three months in which to complete the yarn. I took it steady and didn't over tire myself at each sitting, mentally pulling myself up and checking my yarn with a magnifying glass from time to time. I was happy with the way things were going and even though the low ratio was giving me a very sore hip I eventually started to ply one sunny afternoon sitting out on my patio. The plying took me six hours with only a short break for a bite to eat. By the time the yarn was finished I was heartily sick of it and vowed that if it hadn't beaten the world record then tough, I would never attempt it again!
I measured off the yarn and was cautiously optimistic, I knew that my measuring and weighing methods left something to be desired so sent the yarn off with time to spare.
I had been saving for months in order to go to Tasmania for the highland spin in, I was to travel with two spinning friends who had both been before and had arranged accommodation with a friend.
We set off on our trip at the beginning of March 1997 and flew to Singapore for a few days where we went shopping for silk and had a wonderful time exploring the markets and eating wonderful food.
From there we flew on to Australia and arrived eventually in Tasmania after what seemed to be a never ending flight. The first day was spent resting and getting to know our hosts, a really great family who run a wonderful wine shop absolutely stuffed with great Australian wines. ( Gills Wine store Sorrel.)
They introduced me to Ken and Wendy Sulman who agreed to take me trout fishing with them after the spinning was over, I was really looking forward to everything and was eager to get started next day for the spinning gathering.
We travelled to Bothwell the next day where Mary and Suzanah were soon catching up with old friends and enjoying a cup of tea. I had spotted the threads hanging up on one wall of the sports hall where the event was being held and wandered over to see what other people had done. There were hundreds of threads in many different natural colours, I was pleased to see quite a number done by past students of mine and amazed at the different countries they had come from. I spent some time looking at the threads looking for mine amongst them, I came to the end of the wall and was sure mine hadn't been there. I was in a panic by this time I thought perhaps my thread had been lost in the post or had broken and was not on show, I found Mary and explained what was wrong, she also looked and couldn't see my thread so we found one of the stewards and asked if all the threads were on the wall, we were assured they were unless they were amongst the prize winners on the stage!
We would not find out until the presentation ceremony later that day. In the meantime we were getting ready to take part in the Webster challenge, this involved teams of four people who together would spin and knit an article from a pattern in as fast a time as possible, our team consisted of myself, Mary, Suzannah and another English lady we had arranged to meet in Bothwell, Barabara.
Before the competition got underway the organisers mounted the stage to announce the results of the longest thread, there had been four people who broke the world record and I was one of them, I found myself ushered up onto the stage and introduced to every-one, the winner was Terry de Hetre from U.S.A. and I was asked to receive first prize on her behalf. I had only a few minutes to prepare myself and very nervously said thank you and how nice it was to be there, I had spun a thread of 586 metres for 10 grams of wool and was delighted that at least it had arrived and been measured safely. I have of course started again for 1999 as there is now another record to beat!
We finished our holiday in Tasmania with a trip round part of the island and I went fishing and stayed in a caravan with Ken and Wendy and a Canadian called Jeff. We didn't catch anything as the weather had turned really windy and cold but it was certainly a trip to remember.
We completed our journey with a stop over in Thailand where we rode an elephant in a logging camp and toured the silk processors, paper makers and silver factory near to our hotel. We also visited a silk lace shop which made and sold the most exquisite lace, all unfortunately far too expensive for us to purchase, but we were allowed to take photo's.
Next year if I can afford another trip I will go earlier and fish some more in Tasmania and maybe do a teaching tour in Australia.