Wingham Wool Work: Try Spinning Wool Before You Buy It
Although the World Wide Web offers access to an unlimited variety of spinning wool and tools, nothing beats a trip to the fiber shop—even if getting there requires a plane ride! Some fibers must be experienced in person. With this in mind, the family-owned spinning shop Wingham Wool Work invites you to Wentworth, England, for a day of sampling.
We asked Tom Gough to fill us in on how to plan your own Try Before You Buy day.
Spin Off (SO): How has Wingham Wool Work grown over the years?
Tom Gough (TG): Ruth Gough began selling handspun knitwear back in the 1970s, and it soon became clear that people were keen to learn how to make their own garments at home. She began teaching handspinning. Ruth initially gathered a small selection of fibers and equipment to supply her students, first to those who came to her classes, and then to their friends, once word began to spread. In the pre-internet days, it took a while for word to get around, but once people heard, demand quickly grew.
Although it was easy enough to get ahold of knitting yarns during the 1980s and 1990s, it was hard for the home spinner to find a good source of natural wools. Fortunately, we’re based in the north of England, surrounded by the historic textile-processing centers of Bradford, Huddersfield, and Holmfirth, so we were able to go straight to the source. Ruth built a strong relationship with many of the industrial processors, and many supported us in those early days by supplying a range of fibers that wouldn’t otherwise have been available to the consumer.
These days, Wingham has grown to where we’re now dealing in tonnes of fiber at a time, and we process many of these on-site at Wentworth. Ruth is still in the shop every day, but now accompanied by her husband [Alan], son [Tom], and a great team of staff, who are on-site six days a week shipping orders around the world. Although the majority of business is online, we still maintain that it’s important to have a physical presence, and here at Wentworth, we welcome customers to come and get hands-on with the fibers.
SO: Tell us about the breeds of sheep’s fleece you carry.
TG: Our most popular wool is our range of 125 shades of dyed Merino, as it is a great “all-round” fiber, and of course the colors give plenty to choose from. But we also stock a huge number of natural breeds, both from Britain and further afield. Gray and Black Welsh are wonderful hard-wearing wools, perfect for felting projects that might need to stand up to the rough-and-tumble of daily use. Bluefaced Leicester offers a softer feel and is great for spun yarns that are a touch gentler against the skin.
We also offer a range of more exotic fibers. Dehaired yak is an incredibly soft fiber to work with, in contrast to the coarse, yet extremely hard-wearing, camel hair.
Vicuña, one of the most expensive fibers in the world (a vicuña suit may set you back the price of a car), is also available for those wanting to add that ultimate luxurious touch to their design.
SO: Tell us about Try Before You Buy day.
TG: Anybody is welcome to visit us at Wentworth and spin or felt wool samples for no charge. It’s as simple as that!
While buying online is convenient, it can sometimes be hard to know just what you’re going to be getting, especially if you’re new to the world of fiber crafts or if you’re trying something for the first time. A website photo and description can only convey so much information but sadly can’t pass on the feel of the fiber, the softness of it, or how long it will take you to felt. The only way to know any of this is to get hands-on, and that’s what we offer.
A Wingham sampling day offers just that opportunity. We’ll be on hand to offer hints and tips, but otherwise, we leave you to wander the wool sheds and grab whatever takes your fancy. You’ll have access to all the fibers we sell, and you can take home all samples you make up during the day. The aim is that you leave us with a greater understanding of what works for you, which fibers you prefer, and hopefully a little inspiration for your next project!
SO: Where can visitors stay?
TG: Located 1 mile from Wentworth is Chivas Cottage. It’s a charming building set near the site of the Elsecar Heritage Centre (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). In fact, it’s two cottages joined together, as the pit workers who once occupied them had to make do with much less space than we’re used to. Today, the cottage offers one double room and two twins, aimed at those who want to visit us in Wentworth from a little further afield, or who are joining us on a two-day spinning course. With an open-plan kitchen and living room, cast-iron log burner, and a garden to the rear, complete with BBQ for those sunnier days, it’s a great spot to base yourself for a Wingham Wool Work visit. There are also numerous walks and attractions in the surrounding area, which are handy if you’re visiting with a partner who may not be quite as inclined to spend the day surrounded by wool!
This article was originally featured in the Spring 2018 issue of Spin Off.
Featured Image: Wingham Wool Work invites you to Wentworth, England.