The first meeting of the year was an 'away fixture' at Armley Mills and it wasn't only the theme of the day that was rather wild and woolly. A road closure somewhere around the Burley Road area required a combination of lucky timing and the navigational skills of Magellan to negotiate. Several intrepid members were defeated by increasingly heavy traffic along alternative routes and had no choice but to abandon the mission.
Those who did make it were able to enjoy an afternoon of crochet and a fascinating guided tour of the mill.
The crochet workshop was lead by Sarah Bell, a woman with the patience of a saint and the talent to crochet anything from an octopus to an intricate matinee jacket. And she is self-taught. The task du jour was for everyone to crochet a pennant in Darling Roses colours. The objective, to make bunting with which to stamp our mark on the church hall. The brownies have a strong presence in there and quite frankly, we are jealous. By the end of the session we had a fair few red and blue triangles to contribute to the bunting.
After lunch, we were given a tour around the mills. At one time, the largest woollen mills in the world, Armley shaped not only the entire textile industry but the whole city. The scale of the machinery used to turn fleece into fabric is mind-boggling. We were able to attempt to rotate the carding machine and pick up a pair of the monstrous cropping sheers Both tasks were almost impossible and the thought of ill-fed, ill-treated and utterly exhausted boys of 14 and 15, operating these back-breaking devices for 14 hours a day, with barely a break, absolutely heart-breaking. Seeing the machines in situ, made it possible to imagine the desperate conditions that, with very good reason. inspired the phrase 'dark satanic mills.'
We learned some of the many phrases in everyday use which have their origins in textile production - shoddy workmanship, taking the piss, knocking off and dyed in the wool - being just a few. For anyone who hasn't visited Armley Mills, please put it on your 'to-do' list. You won't be disappointed. Despite the hurdles along the way, it was a really good day. Huge thanks and much appreciation to Sarah Bell, Maia Daguerre (for suggesting and organising the special venue!) and the excellent staff at Armley Mills.
Thank you Barry!