Wednesday, August 29, 2012

September Festivals: Wisconsin & South Dakota

I hit the road again next week.  First up is the WisconsinSheep & Wool Festival  in Jefferson, Wisconsin, September 7-9.  I always look forward to this event.  I’ll be teaching all three days.  That’s good – I like teaching, I really do!  And it’s bad – I can’t take advantage of all the cool activities that are part of this festival.  I wish I could watch the fleece judging.  I wish I could watch the crook & whistle stock dog trials.  I wish I could take Letty Klein’s rug braiding workshop or Kathy Krause’s class on llama & alpaca fiber preparation.  I really wish I could watch the “Cooking With the Chefs” event on Sunday afternoon; the Festival magazine lists Indian Spiced Lamb Ragout and Handmade Ravioli with Sheep Cheese as on the menu.  My mouth is watering….

I’ll be teaching Spinning with Locks (this class is full), Spinning Super Stretchy Wools, Plying Balanced Yarns, and Plying for Texture.  So much spinning fun, I can hardly stand it!

The following weekend, I’m flying to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  I’ll be teaching at the North Country FiberFair  which is held in Watertown, SD, September 14-16.  This is a new event for me, but NCFF is celebrating its 20th year.  I’ll be teaching all three days, but I do hope to find some time to see the other activities associated with the Fair.  I certainly will be able to go to the banquet and fashion show on Saturday night.

My workshops there include Blending Colors at the Wheel, Spinning with Locks (full here too!), Variations on Long Draw, and Diversity of Wool.  I expect this trip to be quite wonderful.

With these two events essentially back-to-back, I’ve got a lot of preparation to do.  Let me get on with that!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sweet Stories from Michigan Fiber Festival

This year’s Michigan FiberFestival was especially nice, in part due to the fantastic weather.  I did not melt as I usually do.  I even got to wear jeans one day!  I’d like to share three very short stories with you.

Vignette #1:  It was delightful to see many familiar faces in the workshops I taught.  It’s nice to know that folks want to take more than one workshop from me.  I think it’s the best evidence that I’m doing the work I’m supposed to be doing.

And it’s also delightful to see a knitted up version of one of my patterns.  Emily J. had taken workshops from me before.  This year, she was in my Beginning Spinning at the Wheel workshop.  And, this year, she had a finished “Dream Shawl” to show me.  It looked marvelous in a lovely red.  Makes me want to knit another version of the shawl.  Here’s Emily and her red dream:

Vignette #2:  I’d met Cadice W. a number of years ago at the Fiber Event in Greencastle, Indiana.  It was nice to see her in my Spinning with Locks workshop.  She “blamed” me for encouraging her to get some Finn sheep.  I do love the silky feel of Finn wool!

As a gift, she gave me nearly a pound of raw fleece from her Finn sheep, “Gabe”.  I haven’t spun Finn in quite awhile, and I am so looking forward to the experience again.  Here’s the bag of fleece:

As another gift, Emily gave me a charming bar of goat milk soap in the shape of a sheep.  It’s almost too charming to use.  But I’ll use it anyway!  Here it is:

Vignette #3:  At the end of teaching on Friday, I packed up my stuff and prepared to move some of it to the space where I would be teaching on Saturday morning.  Ann Niemi of Kessenich Loom Company  had been teaching a 2-day weaving class in the space that would be mine on Saturday.  As she was packing up her equipment, I asked if she’d mind if I put my stuff along the wall and out of her way.  “No problem!” she replied.

The next morning, Saturday, my fourth and final day of teaching at MFF, I showed up in my assigned space to start setting up for my Slip Stitch Knitting workshop.  The coffee was only beginning to kick in.  It took me a few minutes to realize that all the stuff I’d left in the space the evening before – workshop notebooks, swatches, samples, tools, and books – were not there!

This had never happened before.  I’ve stored supplies in workshop spaces at many a festival and nothing had ever disappeared.  No panic yet.  I went to the Festival office to see if my things had been moved there for overnight.  No, my things were not there.  Del, the festival coordinator, got rather more anxious than I.  Then it occurred to me that perhaps Ann had packed it away with her weaving things.  Del quickly found a brochure for the Kenssenich Loom Company in their vendor booth.  I called.  It was about 8:30am by this time and my workshop was scheduled to start at 9:00am.  Bruce Niemi answered the phone and said Ann was in the shower.  Could she call me back?  Yes, please!  A few minutes later, Ann called.  She knew exactly what had happened; she’d had some assistance in packing the night before and those who helped her had also helped pack up my stuff!

It is very fortunate that Ann lives rather close to Allegan, so she was able to rush my things back to me.  She, and my stuff, arrived just a very few minutes after 9:00am.  In the meantime, Del had photocopied a couple of sheets from my handouts (I had my own copy), and Nancy Shroyer had lent me some yarn to knit with.  Thanks, Del!  Thanks, Nancy!

The workshop went off without a hitch.  The following day, Ann approached me, thoroughly mortified by the incident, and she offered to let me pick out something from her booth as a gift.  Wow!  I thanked her and said, “Now I’m glad you mistakenly took my stuff!”  It’s important to point out that Bruce makes very lovely weaving tools.  Really lovely.  I selected a small belt shuttle that I know will make me want to get back to my inkle loom very soon.  Here it is:

It’s happenings like these that make teaching at fiber festivals so very rewarding!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Which Sheep Are You?

I had a most wonderful time at the MichiganFiber Festival  last week.  I was kept pretty busy for four days teaching workshops.  I so enjoy sharing my spinning and knitting enthusiasm with the workshop participants.  Here’s a big Thank You to all of you who joined me.

I stayed one extra day, Sunday, to shop and to just soak in all the fibery vibes.  I got a good chance to wander through the barns where the animals reside.  I was struck this year by the wide range of sheep breeds that were attending.  I gave my camera a workout.

Not all the sheep pens had signs identifying the sheep breed.  Fortunately, my friend Letty Klein was there and she very quickly identified the sheep for me.  Letty, by the way, was this year’s fleece judge.  She chose a dark brown merino fleece as the best in show.  And she showed me the fleece.  Very very lovely!  Right next to the table with that fleece was the pen with sheep from the same shepherd.

Without further ado, here is the sheep breed line-up.

Those lovely Merinos:

Letty’s Karakuls:

I was most surprised to see Scottish Blackface sheep:

A picture of Icelandic sheep (I’m pretty sure these are Icelandic…):

A picture of a Shetland sheep (I’m pretty sure this is a Shetland…)

Lovely Lincoln.  Look at those locks!

The very distinguished looking Bluefaced Leicester:

Some very very big Columbia crosses:

After I took these pictures, I put away my camera and met Letty for lunch.  She then pointed out a couple of breeds that I missed.  So, I have no pictures of Clun Forest sheep or Targhee sheep (although I did buy some Targhee top from the shepherd).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

MFF and More!

The countdown begins!  The Michigan Fiber Festival  is next week, and I still have a lot of preparation to complete.  I have so many hand spun and hand knitted samples that I want to bring; I need to start gathering them up.  And I need to make sure that I have enough supplies for each class.  And I still need to put the finishing touches on the handouts for the “Spinning with Locks” workshop.  And I can’t decide which wheel(s) to bring with me.

And, I need a pound of pencil roving for my “Beginning Spinning at the Wheel” workshop on Wednesday.  Does anyone have any that they can get to me for my Wednesday class?

I don’t think I’m going to need coffee to keep me revved up for the next few days….

I really look forward to the Festival.  I get to see fiber friends, I get to teach enthusiastic people, I get to fondle and buy fabulous fiber.  Best of all, it looks like it’s going to NOT be painfully hot and humid for the festival.  Fantastic!

Here’s the …And More!

The folks who organize the Festival have also organized a new fiber event:  the Michigan Fiber Arts Symposium

It’s going to be held in Kalamazoo at the Radisson Plaza Hotel, March 22-24, 2013.  There will be three days of workshops.  Maggie Jackson is the keynote speaker at a Saturday night banquet.  I’ve been asked to teach, so I’ll be there.  Other instructors include:  Annie Modesitt, Nancy Shroyer, Suzanne Higgs, Stafania Issacson, Julia Leos, Suzanne Pufpaff, Maggie Jackson, Carol Wagner, and Ann Niemi.

March is a great time for a weekend getaway of fiber action.  Be sure to put this event on your calendar!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Used Spinning Equipment For Sale

When my friend, Fran Finocchio, told me she wanted to sell her spinning equipment I thought she was telling me she was going to quit spinning.  This disturbed me greatly because she had just taken a series of mini-workshops from me a couple months ago.  The thought going through my head was that I was somehow to blame for her giving up spinning!

I am happy to report that Fran merely wants to lighten her load, not give up spinning entirely.

So I offered to post her equipment here.  She’s got a wheel and a drum carder for sale.

The wheel is a Louet S51, single treadle, in fair condition.  It comes with 3 bobbins.  Fran learned to spin on this wheel, and she has used it recently (so it works).  She's asking $250 for the wheel.  Here’s a picture:

And she’s got a drum carder that she wants to sell.  She bought it used.  It has medium hardware cloth on it, but Fran has used it for fine wool and llama blanket and it has done well with both.  There is a crack in the drum that was there when Fran purchased it, but it doesn't affect the performance.  She's asking $300 for the drum carder.  Here’s a picture:

She lives near Lake Ann, Michigan.  You can contact her directly.  Her phone # is 231-275-2751.  And her email is:

Monday, August 6, 2012

In Praise of Sturdy Yarns

My trunk show last weekend at Wool & Honey  was quite successful, despite the oppressive heat and humidity (which, I am grateful to report, has broken), and further despite the abundance of other wonderful events occurring in the area (including the Traverse City Film Festival).

I sold many yarns and many patterns (‘Cabled Wrists” was the star of the show).  Thanks to all who attended and thanks to all who thought enough of my work to purchase some!

It is always interesting to see what sells.  I had expected the textured yarns to be the hottest sellers:  the lock yarns, the knot yarns, the boucles.  But no!  It was the “luxury” yarns that sold best:  the cashmere, the silk, the alpaca, the mohair.  The soft yarns.  The “neck worthy” yarns.

What did not sell at all were the sturdy yarns:  the yarns spun from Romney, or Coopworth, or Corriedale.  I had two sets of 3-ply yarns that I am especially fond of that have long languished in my inventory.  I personally think these yarns have character and great potential for outer wear.

So, last night, I removed these yarns from the for-sale inventory so that I can knit them myself!  I will be making a “leaf raking”, autumn-worthy vest from “Clay Pots” (a 3-ply of mostly Coopworth and Romney with a bit of mohair), and a pair of dog-walking mittens from “Peppercorn” (a 3-ply of mixed-breed, medium grade wool).

Not all yarns should be soft.  I can fully appreciate the tactile satisfaction of soft yarns.  I mean!  Who doesn’t like cashmere?!  But I can equally appreciate that some knitted items really deserve to be made from sturdy yarns.

Perhaps once my customers see what can be made from strong yarns, they will find them more appealing.  I certainly won’t stop spinning them or knitting with them.