I went to the monthly meeting of my local chapter of the Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers yesterday. (I`m primarily a member of the Haddington Spinners, but this is my #2 group.) It was a beginners day, second of the two we have every year. Not really formal teaching as such, though we did get a formal tutor in for Beginners 1 where they learned the theory of spinning. Yesterday was Beginners 2, which was about fibre carding, blending and more spinning. No tutor this time, more a structured self help day. We oldies were asked to bring in any spare carders, fibres etc that we would be willing to loan and share.
Now I like this type of day and though I`ve only been spinning for two years (unlike many of the Guild members who have been spinning for decades) I`m always willing to help newbies and I`ve got a knack for teaching beginners, as I`ve found out. (Modest, me???) So I wasn`t at all surprised when Mrs President asked me to take charge of four new spinners that had never used a wheel before and handed me the two much abused Guild wheels to use. (These unfortunate wheels are loaned out on a monthly basis to new spinners and they get a lot of wear and tear and very little TLC. Or oil! Plus they were both Ashfords (one Traditional, one Traveller) and belive it or not I`ve never spun on any Ashford. Nor do I use Scotch tension much. I`m a double drive or Irish tension person.)
So......I was rather put on the spot, no? Two squeaky clunkers and four sets of eyes raptly following my every move. I got through this by being 100% frank about my limited experience with these two wheels and giving them a quick guided tour of wheel construction whilest oiling the poor wheels copiously. Got them working, did the usual 101 demo, (probably contradicting every word the experienced tutor had told them,) showed them all the beginners tricks to get going (sellotaping the leader etc) and then split them into pairs, gave them a wheel each and let them get going. I`m a firm beliver that the only way to learn to spin is to try. They made all the usual ghastly bits of twirly string and lumpy mess that everyone does at first, but by the end of the day they had all "got" it and were turning out creditable lengths of "designer" yarns. And they were having great fun. I hardly did any spinning myself and I came home totally hoarse after five hours of almost non-stop talking but I felt very satisfied with my day.
However, the point of my post is not to say how wonderful I am. (Though this is also true, ask anyone who knows me. Maybe..... ;-) ) No, it`s to comment on a little discussion I overheard between a small group while we were in the kitchen.
Now I admit, the hall we use for this was mayhem that day. We couldn`t get the bigger one we use for events and we had at least thirty more folk in with us than usual, plus some folk had brought along children which didn`t help the chaos either. There were clumps of folk all over the place doing all sorts of things, spinning wheels and fibre everywhere, it was hot, noisy, stuffy and all the rest. Including fun, but this group did not think so. No, the gist of their discussion was that they did not come to Guild to be unpaid teachers. They came to Guild meetings to do their own spinning and craftwork and have a nice day with their friends. They did not want "these people" there. One woman in particular was especially vocal about this. She wanted a "proper" day, not all this mess.
Now, they do have a certain point. I suppose. USA readers in particular may be nodding their heads and asking why the new folk didn`t go to paid classes? Well, because we have very, very little by way of paid tuition here....there is some, but usually what you get is an hour from the shop owner when you buy a wheel, or very rarely, a spinning class on the other side of the country. I only know one actual tutor. no, 90% or more of us learned to spin at meetings like this or from a friend. The Guild specifically encourages each group to have beginners days, so that the shy will come out of the closet. And the two beginners days were scheduled in the Guild calendar of events, as just that. There are eleven other meetings in the events calendar, btw.
So .....I didn`t say anything at the time, because (1) I was eavesdropping! and (2) I`m still a new Guild member so didn`t really feel up to challenging this. But it left me with a nasty taste, really. I`ve always thought of spinners (and knitters, weavers, felters and all the rest) as a delightful group of human beings, keen to share their knowledge and to welcome others into the circle. I can`t say I`ve ever met any before that were otherwise. So I was shocked at this conversation, really I was. If these ladies didn`t want to get involved in a beginners day, why were they there? Why not just stay home? Why have this totally moaning minnie conversation in the kitchen, with people (including newbies) wandering in and out for cups of tea?
And also, who taught them? I taught myself the basics, then got endless help from the wonderful ladies at the Haddington Spinners. I`m no master spinner now, more a competant first year journeyman, but as I said earlier, I know enough to teach newbies. And I belive in putting back in what I got out when I was a newbie. What`s their view? Take but not give?
As I said, shocked. I`ve never heard anything like it. It`s like biting into an apple and finding a worm, so it is.
Edit: Just came back to add...the rest of the Guild ladies were working like slaves, really they were, and giving 110% for the new folk. So it was just this tiny, tiny minority of folk. So if anyone is thinking about going to their local Guild spinning meetings, don`t be put off by this one bad story, please!!!