Monday, 14 November 2011

SpinningSchool accepts Eve Branson’s ‘Moroccan Challenge’

 SpinningSchool, a not-for profit group based near Market Harborough that teaches long draw spinning, recently accepted an unusual challenge from the Eve Branson Foundation - to teach long draw spinning to a group of young Berber women in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

The Eve Branson Foundation provides practical assistance to Moroccan women to help them support themselves and their families. Cashmere is a high value fibre much prized by knitters, and the Foundation had previously donated a herd of cashmere goats to the villagers. However, cashmere is notoriously difficult to hand-spin and SpinningSchool was asked if it could provide the necessary expertise to the local women.

Pam Austin, founder of SpinningSchool, accepted Eve Branson’s challenge. Two experienced SpinningSchool teachers, Judith Viola and Vicky Ferguson, went out to Morocco in July and, in spite of problems including the local languages (the pupils only spoke Berber Arabic and French), eight girls learned to spin wool or cashmere fibre using standard spinning wheels and drop spindles.

A delighted Eve Branson, who flew out to Morocco with Judith and Vicky, subsequently emailed Pam: “…. I have just returned from Morocco, and what a splendid job your girls are doing. Thank you for all of your help.” SpinningSchool has also provided the Eve Branson foundation with some practical proposals for utilising the cashmere currently being produced in Morocco.

The Eve Branson Foundation aims to improve the lives of women and young girls in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco through education, business and health care. It provides educational opportunities, vocational training, and clean workshops - all the necessary resources to create marketable goods. The Foundation thus enables these women and young girls to become economically self-sufficient and generate income to support themselves and their families.

Based in Stoke Albany, near Market Harborough, Pam Austin teaches long draw spinning with wool and fine fibres such as silk, cashmere and alpaca. The SpinningSchool currently meets on weekdays and at weekends in Stoke Albany village hall, and provides inspiration and support for beginners and those wishing to improve their skills.

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