The threat of nakedness is hanging over the animals at Les Fragnes. Why? Because I learnt to spin a week ago. Now I eye up every creature I see with a view to what sort of yarn I could spin from its fur/wool/hair. Everyone knows that llama and alpaca wool is wonderful for spinning. But cats, dogs and rabbits are excellent too. We have one very fluffy cat – she’s top of the list for an appointment with the scissors!

Caitlin and I spent two days mastering the age-old art of spinning with our brilliant teacher, Marion Gauvin, at Le Masmont, St Gervais d’Auvergne. We started by sorting though sheep fleece, learning how to ‘open’ it, ready for carding. Our first carding was by hand, which is extremely good exercise. It’s much easier using a machine, which we moved on to later. However, ‘cardeuses’ are on the pricy side so I’ll be carding manually and building up my biceps for the time being.

We started our spinning careers on ‘fuseaux’ (spindles). I’d had a go at this before but it was great to have a refresher course. The principles of handspinning and spinning with a wheel are the same. So when we moved onto ‘rouets’ (spinning wheels) we knew about keeping tension even and making sure we spun two separate threads with the twist going one way, and also about plying, which is the combining of the first two threads together by twisting them in the opposite direction. That way your finished yarn doesn’t unravel.

Caitlin really took to it and was soon producing very impressive yarn. I was a bit slower on the uptake but, thanks to expert tuition and the sheer enjoyment of it all, my early lumpy, bumpy efforts gradually improved, and I got better at keeping the wheel turning smoothly. It’s going to be a matter of practice making perfect. I have my own spinning wheel, which came along to the second day of our course. It’s a good, solid wheel which I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time with.

So … that’s why our animals could soon be parted from their outer coverings. We actually already have some semi-naked creatures on the farm. I bought five cou-nu chickens recently. Cou-nu literally means ‘naked neck’ and these freaky little birds have, you guessed it, bare necks. Endearingly ghastly!