I was in Manchester at the weekend, to visit my new niece, Holly, who arrived safe and sound on Monday, she’s very wee at 6lb exactly, but she’s got a healthy pair of lungs on her! Once she sorts out her days and her nights and learns to sleep in her cot she’ll be fine. Well, she’s fine already, it’s her poor parents who are suffering. Her big sister (21 month old Daisy) doesn’t seem very interested so far – she did try to feed her by shoving a plastic spoon in her face, but when she was dissuaded she lost interest.
So that was Friday, and on Saturday I headed into Manchester town centre. I grew up nearby, and used to know it well, but I don’t get in very often these days, and every time something has changed. The most interesting (to me)change since last time I was there was the opening of Manchester’s only yarn shop, Purl City Yarns, and I wandered through the Northern Quarter (which is trying to reinvent itself as the arty quarter, but is still rather run down really) until I found the road it’s on.
It didn’t look particularly promising, but there is was, right at the end.
And inside it’s lovely!
There’s a good selection of the usual suspects, plus some more unusual yarns (including a lot of very reasonably priced Drops yarns, Blacker Yarns, Fyberspates, and Manos), all nicely laid out with plenty of space to browse.
And all with this gorgeous chappie watching over things from the stairs -
I was going to be good and only buy a bottle of Euclan (Mine’s nearly empty and nowhere sells it round here), but I did succumb to some Drops Karisma to make a Chickadee cardigan – I need a cream for the background to the yoke, but they were out of stock. I’ve got some yarn which I think will do, but if it’s too different I’ll get a ball online somewhere. The birds are going to be the deep pink colour, and the edging to the yoke is the grey.
The staff in the shop were lovely, and after a few minutes I suddenly realised that I knew one of them, Audrey, who came to our knitting group in York a few years ago when she was in the area. It was nice to catch up with her, and as I was leaving she suggested that I visit Fred Aldous, which I’d never heard of, and would have walked past as it looks like an art shop from the outside. It’s in an amazing building (which is very typical of Manchester).
The ground floor is mostly arty things, but there’s an enormous basement -
Which includes a very nice haberdashery section, I can see me visiting again now I know it’s there.
It was reasonably priced too, and I picked up a selection of bits and bobs, including four concealed zips for £1.09 each – I bought one at Duttons a few days earlier, and it was much more than that.
When I’d finished there I had a wander round the area, looking at the old buildings.
I did pop into Akabhan Fabrics, but it was busy and confusing – they have lots of remnants, but they’re priced per kilo with no obvious way to weigh them to find out how much they’ll cost, so I decided that I didn’t really need anything anyway and came away.
This lovely deco building looks very sad these days, there’s even weeds growing out of the roof :(
This is the Manchester Craft and Design Centre, I had lunch there (very average, I wouldn’t really recommend it) and had a bit of a wander round, but sadly I’m not really in the market for hand-crafted things at the moment, my money won’t stretch that far with the Harrogate show and Christmas coming up, so I meandered off again.
Just up the road is the old wholesale fish market, which is just a facade these days – there’s a new block of flats and a garden inside now.
I love the friezes above the gates.
Whilst I was having lunch I remembered that I’d seen a programme on TV a while ago from the textile gallery at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, so I hopped on a tram to Deansgate/Castlegate station, wandered around a bit due to the complete lack of signage from the station to the museum, then wandered round the steam hall due to the complete lack of signage at the museum itself (a bit of theme going on here, there were also very few staff around to ask), and eventually found the part I was looking for.
The whole centre section of the gallery is set up with the various machines used in the Lancashire cotton mills to change raw cotton into woven fabric, and twice a day there’s a demonstration, I caught the 3pm one. My family tree includes many cotton spinners and weavers, so I was particularly interested.
Above are the carding machines, which produce a sliver of cotton (after various stages, I can’t remember the exact details, apologies if I get anything wrong!)
Six slivers are then combined into one, and this is repeated twice more to make sure that all the fibres are aligned.
The slivers are then lightly spun twice to make them thinner.
Before they’re spun into singles on the spinning mule. Sadly for a spinner, this wasn’t working on Saturday, but I have seen one in action before, at Trefriw Woollen Mill in North Wales – if you’re interested, there’s a video of it working on my blog post about it.
Lastly the singles are woven into calico cloth, but for some reason I seem to have forgotten to take a photo of the loom. Oops.
Other interesting exhibits included this ribbon loom, which makes labels for clothes etc.
Stamps for finished cloth.
Arkwright’s water frame and carding engine – some of the first powered textile machines.
And a sock knitting machine, which you could make go by pressing a button.
There’s a lot more to see as well, I’d definitely recommend a visit to anyone interested in the history of textiles, especially cotton – and it’s free to go in, which is always a plus. The museum also has halls with engines of various sorts, and a aviation hall, so plenty for menfolk who may not be so interested in spinning to do too! I’m going to go back another time and look at the railway parts of the museum (it’s in the old Liverpool Road Station, terminus of the first purpose built passenger and goods railway in the world), but that’s a post for another day…)
Moving on from the museum, I was entertained by this juxtaposition of old and new – the old sheds the museum is housed in, and the new tower block, which looks very unstable, but stays up somehow!
I then spotted a sign for ‘Spinningfields’, and just had to follow it, but sadly it’s a new shopping and business centre, with not a sign of a spinning wheel (okay, I wasn’t really expecting spinning shops, but it would have been nice!)
There was a branch of AllSaints though, with their trademark window display. It’s not easy to see in the photo above, but the whole window is full of old sewing machines.
Including one very much like mine, I was pleased to see.
I slowly made my way back to Victoria to catch the tram back to my parents, it was busier as I got to the more popular bits, but the buildings are still impressive, including the Barton Arcade.
The monstrosity which is the Arndale Centre lives on though.
So there you are, well done if you’ve stuck with me this long – I was going to do two separate posts, but once I’d started I just seemed to keep going… Come back tomorrow to see my new cowl :)