Monday, September 19, 2011

Movin' to L.A.

Lake Ann, that is. Lake Ann, Michigan
. Right now, I have an Interlochen address, although I live in Benzie County. Sometime over the next couple weeks, I’ll be completely moved to Lake Ann. From Inland Township to Almira Township.

I’m moving because I’ve lost my house due to foreclosure. I was one of those folks who bought a house at the height of the real estate market. Then the bottom fell out. And I haven’t been able to develop the income I’d hoped for. Despite having made a significant downpayment, I now owe more on the house than it is worth. I’ve pursued several avenues of recourse, but nothing has worked. This is a very common story.

So it’s time to move on. Start over. I’ll be sharing a house with a nice lady in Lake Ann. The biggest psychological hurdle was giving up the gardens that I’ve spent years developing. I’ve gotten over that one. At least I’ll be able to garden in my new place.

I may have to take a break from blogging for a couple weeks. I’ll get back to it as soon as I can. And I’ll update my website when the move is complete.

Here’s lookin’ toward the future. Cheers!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Part 3: Excellent Fiber

Nice plaque! It was awarded for the ”Grand Champion Fleece Overall” (i.e., “best in show”) at this year’s Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival.

This year, Letty Klein
was the judge. She had somewhere between 120 and 130 fleeces to judge. That doesn’t include the Shetland fleeces; they were judged separately.

There were three fleece divisions, each with multiple classes. I emailed Letty to ask about the judging process. Here’s what she had to say:

“The Coopworth fleece won the white coarse division, then beat out a nice but kind of dingy Cormo to be Champion White fleece. For Supreme fleece overall, I had the white Coopworth, a stunning natural colored Bluefaced Leicester, and they brought over the Champion Shetland fleece to judge. Since this was the first time I had seen the black Shetland fleece, I looked it over closely. I was very surprised to find that the tips came off very easily. I tried in several areas, all the tips were tender. The audience groaned when I showed them. So, that left the Coop and BFL. I then asked the audience for a vote - more voted for the BFL. I said OK, but lets take a closer look at both of them. I showed examples and talked about the character, consistancy and handle - and talked both them and myself into selecting the Coop!”

Who knew that fleece judging could be so suspenseful! I was on the edge of my seat just reading Letty’s description!

Here’s the kicker: That winning Coopworth fleece came from Carol Wagner of Hidden Valley Farm & Fiber Mill!
I have always known that she has wonderful fabulous can’t-be-beat Coopworth wool. Now there’s confirmation!

Needless to say, Hidden Valley is my go-to source for Coopworth wool.

There are other vendors at WSWF who I consider go-to sources:

I always get my Cormo wool from Jill Johnson at Riverwinds Farm.
This year in her booth, she also had some fabulous Bluefaced Leicester wool. I bought some combed top and some dyed locks. Mmmmm…..

BrambleWool Farm
is my go-to source for Shetland wool. Julie Guilette had rovings, tops, and Shetland blends in her booth. By Sunday afternoon, her booth was nearly empty!

I have also in the past bought lovely a Shetland-Mohair blend combed top from Psalm 23 Farm
at WSWF. It is yummy!

This year, I ran into Neil Kentner several times at the festival. He’s from Mason, Michigan and he raises Wensleydale sheep at his farm, Wynsmoor Manor (sorry, no website). He has also been fleece judge at WSWF in the past. So, he knows fleeces. I snagged a pound of lovely washed Wensleydale fleece from him this year (from a sheep named “Beulah”). I suspect that may become an annual tradition!

Anyway, WSWF is an event that is guaranteed to offer magnificent fiber for handspinners. If you haven’t attended this event, do consider going in the future. It’s worth it!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Part 2: Excellent Shopping

Books, tools, and treats for myself. The shopping was excellent. This is one of my favorite places to shop. There were about 150 vendors. This year I went with an actual shopping list. And I got pretty much all that I was looking for….and, of course, more!

My one real indulgence – just for myself – not related at all to business – but I love them: Earrings by Jenny the Potter.
A few years ago, I bought one of her mugs. Last year, some earrings. This year, some more earrings. Who could resist green sheep?
The other non-tool, non-fiber, non-business related purchase was a canvas bag. Now, I’ve got loads of canvas bags. And I use ‘em. I always have a stack of them in the passenger seat of my car, so I can quick grab them for grocery shopping or whatever shopping. But do I really need another bag? Well, no….but! I saw Cheryl Stegert (see yesterday’s blog entry) carrying one around, and I was compelled. You see, the bag is the Festival bag, sold by Ewesful Gifts
(they sell all sorts of sheepy-related paraphernalia ). And this is the 10th year for the Festival. That’s a meaningful milestone. Besides, the bag is green (Can you tell that green is my favorite color?) and fabulously big. I was able to put a goodly amount of my purchases in it. Worth it, don’t you think?

Now, most of my purchases were purposeful and intended to help with my fiber work. I got two books, one on knitting, one on weaving.

As I’ve begun my foray into the world of rigid heddle weaving, many folks have encouraged me to get the book by Jane Patrick, The Weaver’s Idea Book. I found a copy of it at the Mielke’s Fiber Arts booth.

I was also on the lookout for Ann Budd’s latest, Sock Knitting Master Class. Ann is the editor of this compilation of fantastic and fantastical patterns by many of the best sock designers. I found a copy at Susan McFarland’s booth (Susan’s Fiber Shop
). A quick perusal convinced me that this book is a must-have for any sock knitter. By the way, I’ve been visiting Ann’s blog lately and she is in the process of knitting every single sock in this book, presenting these sock knitting adventures on her blog.

Besides books, I got a few tools too. I do a fair amount of hand combing, and I usually just pull the top off the combs. I thought I should give a diz a try. So, I got one at Susan’s McFarland’s booth. I think it’s made from some type of plastic, but I like its looks, and I like that it comes with a hook for snagging the first bit of fiber off the combs.

Cheryl Stegert is responsible for prompting me to buy a tahkli spindle. Now, I've already got a good tahkli at home. I didn't really need another one, but this one was made using a Sacagawea dollar coin as the whorl. I could not resist. I bought it at Mielke's Fiber Arts...and they make them.
I also came by a great niddy noddy. Nancy Shroyer
(see yesterday’s blog entry) gave me one of her fabulous travelling niddy noddies as a thank you for driving her around at the Festival. What a sweet thank you! I am thrilled. It’s so nice to have portable, functional, and beautiful spinning tools!

As you might imagine, I did purchase my fair share of fiber at the Festival. I will talk about things “fibery” in the next blog entry….Stay tuned….

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Part 1: Excellent Classes

I got home late Monday night from my trip to the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival. What a wonderful time I had!
I’m going to blog about my Wisconsin adventures over the next three blog entries. Today, I’ll concentrate on classes: Students and Teachers.

I taught all three days of the Festival. All the workshop participants were alert, enthusiastic, ernest, adventurous, appreciative, and just really really pleasant people. That’s the way it has always been at this event. I just love teaching workshops there.

I got a chance to chat with a few of the other instructors at length. Most especially, I got to spend time with Nancy Shroyer of Nancy’s Knit Knacks.
She had flown in from North Carolina and was without a car. So I gave her rides to and from the hotel where we were staying. She is a delightful person, as well as an ingenious fiber tool designer and a wonderful teacher.

On Thursday night Nancy and I joined Letty Klein
for dinner at Highway Harry’s in Johnson Creek. Letty was scheduled to teach a rug braiding class on Friday, judge the fleece competition on Saturday, and give a presentation on Sunday. I had met her last year when we travelled together to the Northeast Handspinners Association “The Gathering” in Vermont (see my blog entry November 11, 2010). It was very good to see her again. It reminds me that I haven’t started the braided rug that I planned to make from some Shetland roving….

On Friday morning I had breakfast with Cheryl Stegert. I had first met Cheryl in Neenah Wisconsin at Midwest Masters 2010. She often teaches classes at Yarns by Design in Neenah.
We chatted about knitting and spinning and weaving. We bumped into each other several times during the Festival, and I “blame” her for some of my purchases (I’ll explain in my next blog entry).

I did stop in on Carol Rhoades’s classroom to say howdy. In past years, we have taught in the same building, but this year we did not, so we didn’t have much time to catch up, but it was nice to see her. Carol is the technical editor for Spin Off magazine
, and she helped neaten up my article on my 3X3=10 shawl (Fall 2011 issue). Thanks Carol!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor of Love

Today is Labor Day. As with most of you, I’ve tried my hand at many forms of work. These days, I work at what I love: fiber arts. I spend most of my days spinning, knitting, teaching, preparing to teach, writing, and contemplating the wonders of fiber. I am lucky that way. Not everyone can do the work they really really want to do.

The flip side of my labor of love is that it requires that I live on a financial shoe-string. I have simplified and downsized a lot over the past few years. I will likely continue to do so. I’m not complaining: I find it satisfying, not constraining. (Hey! That rhymes!)

Last week I “labored” on what I think is an adorable pair of wrist warmers. Last year, I had spun a yarn that I describe as an “intermittent wrap yarn”. It’s a two-ply yarn where one ply intermittently wraps around the other ply. The wraps alternate between the two plies. In her book, The Essentials of Yarn Design for Handspinners, Mabel Ross labeled this type of yarn “Cloud” yarn. It doesn’t look particularly cloud-like to me, but what’s in a name (“A rose by any other name….”)?

This particular yarn was made from two rovings that I’d purchased from Hidden Valley Farm & Woolen Mill
; one of the rovings was 80% Coopworth wool and 20% mohair; the other roving was 80% coopworth and 20% silk. Here’s a picture of the yarn. To try to show you the “wraps”, I wound the yarn around a piece of paper and then took a not-very-good picture of it on my flat bed scanner.

I recently swatched the skein, using a slip-stitch idea that Jacey Boggs
had briefly mentioned in her wonderful article on “cocoon” yarns for Spin-Off (Spring 2011, pp44-47). “…work up to the cocoon, then slip as many stitches as it takes to make up the length of the cocoon – usually two to four – then continue knitting. The result here is a cocoon stretched over the top of your stitches – visually stimulating and incredibly unique.”

I loved the result when I applied it to my intermittent wraps. With only 1 skein (3.25 oz, 104 yards), I was limited in what I could make with my yarn. I decided on wrist wraps. I used the skeleton of a mitten idea from Ann Budd’s
The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns.

I’m keepin’ these babies for myself. I can hardly wait for cold weather!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Marl? Comin' Right Up!

Look what arrived in yesterday’s mail.

See that blurb in the upper right hand corner? That’s my article about my shawl “3 X 3 = 10”. It was originally scheduled to be published in Spin Off last spring, but the editors moved it to the fall issue. It’s good to see it in print!

Here are a few of my photos of the shawl, taken in February 2010 (as explanation of the snow in the background). My friend, Vivienne K is the model:

And here is a picture of the 10 yarns that I spun for the shawl (again with snow in the background):

I do like marl yarns. I like spinning them, and I like knitting with them. And I’ll be teaching “Spinning Marl Yarns” a couple times in the near future. Next week, I’m headed to the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival in Jefferson, Wisconsin. I’ll be teaching the marl workshop on Sunday, September 11.

And in October, I’m headed to Rhinebeck, New York to teach workshops at the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival.
I’ll be teaching the marl workshop there on Saturday, October 15.

Care to join me?