2001 LONGEST THREAD COMPETITION
For those of you who have trudged your weary way through the previous two "World Record" attempts written up on these pages you will be glad to hear that this one is not nearly so fraught or long winded.
On my previous visit to Tasmania in 1999 I had gone off on a tour round parts of the Island I had not visited before with my friend Mary Coombe. On our travels we had stopped off at the Wool museum in Ross, where I had given the curator a small sample of the record thread. She very kindly arranged with the owner of a prize-winning fleece she had on display that I should have a small amount to try should I ever decide to give the record another try.
This fleece was a 15 micron superfine Merino. I put it in my bag and thought if ever!
The year 2000 was a busy year for me with having a stand at the Knitting and Stitching show and teaching there I was keen to have a good stock of yarns ready spun so thought I would get that done before any thoughts of spinning for the "Longest Thread"
I had already washed the fleece and combed it and spun a few yards just to see if it had all of the qualities I knew it would need to be able to break a world record, it did. Somehow though I could not get any enthusiasm up for the job and I was happy to put it off until I felt more inclined.
In September I went to Ally Pally and had a good 4 days at the show, except that I had a phone call on the 2nd day to say that my aunt had again been taken into hospital.
Through the summer she had been in and out of hospital with a disease which made it hard for her to do any of the craft work she loved and I had visited with her when I could get away. The three hour drive to her seemed such a long way when I had limited time away from work.
This time she was in a specialist hospital in Bath and I hurried there as soon as the show was finished. It was very obvious to me that this time she wouldn't be going home again, we spent the last few days of her life together and talked about textiles and her garden and friends.
Mercifully the cancer she had was not diagnosed until her final week by which time it had spread so rapidly that she didn't really know what was wrong. She died with chocolate in her mouth and her knitting by her side, what a way to go.
The next few months were not conducive to me doing any spinning and I wrote and told Barbara that I really did not think I could manage a thread this time round.
Her letter back was short and to the point, basically, you must do a thread, I won't take no for an answer. The deadline had been extended to wait for some entries from Russia and I knew that in order for me to make it I would have to really get on with it.
Luckily for me I had managed to get Martin at P&M Woolcraft to make me a 20:1 ratio flyer for my wheel so that it would cut down on the treadling. I set to work with a vengeance and did very little but work and spin.
This time round the spinning went very easily, I think all of the practice over the previous 6 years had really helped and with the aid of a lamp with a magnifying glass I even managed to spin in the evenings.
Plying too went easily no great disasters at all, I think my aunt was looking over my shoulder keeping me going and focused.
I duly sent the thread off to Barbara and waited, she sent me an email to say it had arrived and would be measured the following week. My main worry was that it wouldn't break, it seemed so thin, however I reasoned that if I had managed to ply it and wind it off without it breaking then so would they.
The waiting seemed to go on forever I hoped Barbara would email me even if it broke or didn't manage to keep the record, I couldn't bear the tension of waiting and not knowing. Eventually after 3 days of getting up at 6 am to check my emails I got the message I had been waiting for. I had done it!
Barbara wouldn't tell me how long the thread was, just that it had broken the Kilometre target. She also said that she really wanted me to go out again as Martien Van Zuillen would be taking an Iranian tent this time and had requested my help in putting it up.
How could I ignore a request like that.
I decided I would stay in Tasmania for only a short time on this trip and would take time in New Zealand as well, a place I had long wanted to visit.
I booked my flights and flew via Japan arriving in Tasmania 3 days before the start of the event. I stayed again with Jo and Graham Gill in Sorrell, it always amazes me how much it just feels like I have popped out to the shop for something, and not been away for 2 years!
Bothwell was full of people I knew, both from England, Australia and Tasmania. Some of the many people staying at Barbaras guessed why I was there, but all were sworn to secrecy.
On the days up to the Opening of the gathering I helped Martien preparing ropes for the new tent, it had not been fully erected before and she was nervous, hoping that the felt panels would fit the framework. On the Thursday we set to with some other willing helpers and after about 4 hours hard work in the hot sun we looked at the finished tent it was truly beautiful. Of course Martien had done a wonderful job, we only had to unpick a couple of sections on the roof panels and the whole thing was perfect.
On the Friday the event began in earnest, the presentations were made and of course as always with me something had to be a challenge. This time it was talking, I think the 21 hours flying followed by a full day in the hot sun the day before had got to my throat and I had totally lost my voice. I could only croak, the speech I had in mind was well and truly out of the question as I managed to whisper loudly down the microphone the thanks I needed to give.
It turned out I had broken my own record by 93.79 metres to make the new world record 1037.28 metres.
I was really delighted as were my family back home when they heard.
This time I didn't look for any fibre to spin another thread with, I definitely won't be attempting another record in the near future though I will still support Barbara and the Thread of Friendship by sending in a thread for non measurement.
Perhaps far into the future I may attempt another record but I have many more things to do now. Not least of all is writing to the many friends that doing these fine threads has brought me.