Sanday Spinners History


The Sanday Spinners are following a long line of Orcadian and Sanday textile tradition; spinning selected local fleeces with care. We handspin raw fleece on spinning wheels and make the resulting yarns into attractive and useful items, through knitting, weaving, and felting.

The Census of 1841 records that eight Sanday women gave their industry as “Spinner.” In  2012 Sanday’s weekly Spinning Group meeting typically hosts between 8 and 20 spinners. We have no formal notion of membership. There are between 20 and 30 spinners of all degrees of experience who come and go as they are able. We welcome anyone with an interest in the craft; we hope that each spinner will in time have a shop window here if they wish to.

The Sanday Spinning Group started from modest beginnings in 2007, when Gill passed on her practically lifelong spinning skills to a couple of novices (Beth and Fenella). News of the small spinning group soon spread by word of mouth and we shortly found some spinning friends. We were joined by further experienced and new spinners as the weeks and months passed.

Several of the Spinning Group keep and breed their own sheep. Several rare and unusual breeds are included. We have goat-keepers too, and some of the spinners produce mohair yarns from their own herd. Although none of us keep alpaca (yet!) we do have access to alpaca fleece locally and do spin alpaca when we have the opportunity.

The group meets weekly for sharing knowledge, fleece, laughter – and cake. The cake is very important! We usually share progress and admire each others’ work. There is much chatter, and we share plans and learn from each other constantly. The group is an encouragement to each of us to stretch our skills and to try something new whenever possible. Beth’s passion for knitting is proving to be contagious and we shall soon have a number of able lace knitters amongst the group. Some of us like to get our hands wet and practise felting, and several members of the group also now weave. There has been a quantity of hand-dyeing going on recently too.

Sanday Spinners is an offshoot of this community group. In early 2008 Gill and Beth applied to be Ashford agents and have been selling spinning wheels and other Ashford products locally since then. The aim was to provide the Spinning Group with affordable equipment – and this enabling aspect is our driving motivation. The business is developing now from this small start to a wider commercial enterprise so that you may now own a share in this continuity of traditional crafting.

The Sanday Spinners work from home, in traditional cottage industry style within sight of the sea, and in rhythm with the tides and the seasons. Every item that we make — each skein, and every knitted stitch,  is crafted with love, tradition – and with just a little sea air included.