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From sheep to shawl, Eileen has been steadily spinning for half a century

From sheep to shawl, Eileen has been steadily spinning for half a century

The Ashford spinning wheel is a relatively latest addition at Eileen Douglas’s Benambra home and its assure is simply occasionally interrupted by the pop of the 100-year-weak gradual combustion stove in the kitchen.

For these who can’t hear the thrum of the wheel it be likely replaced by the kettle simmering on the fireplace, or the click-clack of knitting needles.

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A process repeated many times over, Ms Douglas is working with wool sourced from her relatives impartial correct a few kilometres down the road.

She has two fleeces ready to work.

Nonetheless at 86, Ms Douglas thinks they may look her out.

From sheep to shawl

Ms Douglas sits in her lounge room in the back of the wheel, gently feeding it a steady stream of spun wool.

She is plying two strands together — another step in the paddock to wardrobe process that has played out at her farm over many decades.

At the same time, on a camping stove on the back verandah, a tall pot of water is boiling crammed with gum leaves sourced from the township of Maffra.

It is part of the dyeing process.

A woman uses a wooden spoon to pull a ball of dark orange wool out of a pot of hot water on an outdoor stove.

After boiling the leaves in a pot of water, Ms Douglas uses the water to dye her wool.(

ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville


Later Ms Douglas will grasp the spent leaves and replace them with a ball of spun and plied wool.

“It takes on a dark orange … a great coloration,” she says.

Ms Douglas says gum leaves usually fabricate a “radiant impartial correct” coloration.

Over the years she has tried the entirety from moss from below her home to ash from the fireplace and berries from her daughter’s yard.

“You can utilize anything whenever you happen to are game ample to strive,” she says.

Boiled gum leaves sit steaming in a metal bucket with an upturned sieve on top.

Ms Douglas uses gum leaves to dye her wool.(

ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville


Decades of perfecting an artform

Ms Douglas has picked up many guidelines and tricks over the years.

She started using a dog brush to comb her wool after making an attempt carders.

“I hated these,” she said.

“They impartial correct mucked it up and it was too hard to traipse.

Ewes with their lambs in a pen outside a tin shearing shed.

Ms Douglas works with wool from sheep bred by her nephew Chris Connley.(

ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville


Now Ms Douglas is passing on her information to the next generation.

“Over the years I have proven reasonably a few of us how to traipse,” she said.

“Some acquire reasonably frustrated and don’t meander any additional.

“My granddaughter brought up a lady from Melbourne only at the starting of this year.

“She did no longer have a wheel or anything, so I impartial correct confirmed her.

“I gave her some wool to take back and said, ‘For these who would love a wheel, accomplish whatever they accomplish with their telephones and advertise for an Ashford.'”

Balls of wool of various colours neatly labelled with details on how they were coloured.

Eileen uses a range of natural merchandise to dye her wool, including heater soot and berries.(

ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville


Proud moments

Ms Douglas has had her share of success along with her spinning and knitting, including an equal first prize at the Canberra Point to in 1995 for spinning and dyeing.

“It was amazing,” she said.

An elderly woman holds a blue first prize ribbon and card mounted on a piece of paper.

Ms Douglas’s equal first prize from the 1995 Royal Canberra Point to.(

ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville


Nonetheless her emotions about the local agricultural demonstrate have shifted over the years.

“I did no longer enter into the Omeo Point to after a whereas, because every person said, ‘It is no utilize us entering because Eileen Douglas will preserve it.'”

Many years later, as the fireplace dies down and it threatens to snow exterior, Ms Douglas reveals off a shawl made from a few of the primary wool she spun.

An elderly woman wearing a white knitted shawl. She stands next to a couch laden with wool.

Eileen Douglas devices the shawl she “wore to balls”.(

ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville


From sheep to shawl, Eileen has been steadily spinning for half a century