Friday, May 31, 2013

Before the Workshops Even Started

I enjoyed my time at the Spring Fiber Fling. I always do! This is a weekend-long fiber retreat held at a church camp near Pickford, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula about half way between The Bridge and Sault Ste Marie. This year it was Friday evening through Sunday lunch, May 17-19.

Workshops were scheduled for Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning. That’s plenty of activity all by itself, but the action really started on Friday evening. Registration started at 6pm. The hosting guild, Country Spinners & Bridge Shuttlers, provided snacks of all kinds for evening noshing.

And the vendors set up on Friday. And we got to attack the vendors even before they got set up. They didn’t mind, really. I made a bee-line for Deb and Bob Cline’s booth, Maple Row Stock and Wool (email: ). I’d earlier emailed Deb to see if she had a very fast Lendrum flyer that I could buy. She did. And I did. So I guess now I have a more-than-complete Lendrum folding wheel. This flyer offers a drive ratio of 44:1. That’s a lot of rotations for one treadle. Good for cotton, and that’s exactly what I plan to use it for.

 Another purchase I made from Deb and Bob was 5 skeins of Euroflax linen yarn. In an earlier blog entry I mentioned a sweet pattern in Interweave Knits Spring 2013: Bayswater Shell, designed by Cheryl Niamath. I think this top will be wonderful in the color I chose.

 Joanne Dufour had some lovely wood items in her booth. There was a fabulous bowl that would have made a perfect knitting bowl, but I’d recently purchased a knitting bowl (to be explained in a future blog post), so I didn’t get it. Kristen G. did, however, buy it, and many at the retreat drooled over it. Kristen is a lucky girl. Instead of the bowl, I bought a gorgeous rolling pin. I’m not sure what kind of wood it is. I think maple. But it’s got intriguing “tiger” stripes. The wood worker was Daryl Thurston (email:  I’m thinking of trying my hand at making pasta to give this special rolling pin its initiation.

 In an upstairs area of the lodge, Roxanne Eberts had set up her booth. She is the owner of Woolderness Fiber Arts Studio in Hessel, Michigan. Her daughter does some wonderful art work, and I bought several greeting cards with prints of her art. Here are a few:

 The last purchase I made was from Seldon Collins (email: . She raises corriedale sheep and her fleeces are always spectacular. I bought one last year. This year I was really in the market for some millspun yarn. That may seem odd, but I do like to have breed specific millspun wool yarns on hand for teaching my workshop Diversity of Wool. Seldon had’t brought any yarn with her on Friday, but she actually lives in Pickford, so she was able to bring some for me on Saturday. I bought 2 skeins of white lamb wool yarn, and 2 skeins of very dark brown ram wool. Both classically corriedale! I was thrilled.

 So, even before the workshops started, I had jumped in to the deep end. And I had fun.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wool Hop

You know what a shop hop is, right? It’s when several stores join together to encourage customers to spend a day or more visiting each shop – and spending money too. Well, last Friday I did my own personal yarn shop hop. I invited my friend, Chris C. to join me.

(When Chris tried to explain to her daughter-in-law how we were going to spend the day, Chris said we were going on a “wool hop”. I think that’s charming.)

Chris and I started out at The Yarn Market, in Beulah. Then we drove to Traverse City, hitting Yarn Quest first, and Lost Art Yarn Shoppe second. After that, we drove up to Suttons Bay and met Sylvia VM for lunch at Martha’s Leelanau Table. What a fabulous cafĂ©; the rhubarb ice cream we had for dessert was unforgettable. (Just imagine Nat King Cole singing about ice cream.) We finished up the hopping by going next door to Thistledown Shoppe.

I bought yarn. Really, I was on a mission. I had a reason for shop hopping. This year, I am teaching my workshop, Spinning With Commercial Yarns, four times:  at Mid Atlantic Fiber Association Conference in June, for the Sunrise Spinning Guild in July, at the Michigan Fiber Festival in August, and at Spin Off Autumn Retreat in October. Usually, I just dig into my current yarn stash for supplies for this workshop, but since I’m teaching it four times -- and twice it’ll be a 3-day workshop -- I really needed to get more yarn for supplies.

I had three specific kinds of yarn in mind that I wanted to get. First, I needed a heavy-worsted to bulky, plied, 100% wool yarn in at least 2 colors. Second, I was looking for some smooth cotton or cotton-blend yarns (something non-elastic). Third, I was in need of some “novelty” textured yarns. I am happy to report that I found exactly what I was looking for, and mostly in the sales bins. Here are some of my finds:

Naturally, I did not stop there. I did buy some yarn for myself: some very interesting super skinny 100% hemp yarn (I’m thinking of knitting a summer top), and 3 different sock yarns. See?

I’d like to point out, for Chris’s sake, that not all the yarns I purchased were strictly wool. Hemp, cotton, silk, rayon, polyamide were also in the mix. I love yarn. I love yarn. I love yarn.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Finished My First Tapestry

It seems that every day this month has been filled with fiber action. I was so busy having fiber fun that I failed to find the time to write about it all. Let me make up for that. I want to share some of my Month-of-May fiber activities and I’ve decided to share them in reverse order.

So, I’m starting with what I finished yesterday: my first tapestry.

Last weekend (May 17-19), I attended Spring Fiber Fling, a fiber retreat in Pickford, MI sponsored by the eastern Upper Peninsula guild, Country Spinners & Bridge Shuttlers. I had fun teaching two workshops, Seams to Be and Mohair Locks Rock!

But more importantly, I was able to actually take a workshop. I got to take A Taste of Tapestry taught by Kristin Majkrzak. I hadn’t signed up in advance as I should have. I am ashamed to admit that I asked about taking the class just a few days before the retreat. Lois Robbins, one of the organizers of the retreat informed me the workshop was filled. So, I thought I was out of luck. But when I arrived at the camp, Lois informed me that a space had just opened up in the workshop. WooHoo!

I’d wanted to try tapestry weaving for awhile. A few years back, my friend, Dianne Little had given me a Schacht frame loom. Since then, it’s just been sitting in the corner … waiting … waiting. With this workshop under my belt, I think that loom will not have to wait much longer.

Kristin’s class was only 3 hours long. That’s not much time to introduce students to tapestry weaving. To make the most of the time, she had warped the frames for us in advance. We students then got to prepare the warp for weaving. Then we learned twining as a way of creating a tidy starting edge and ending edge. Kristin provided a number of colors of Lamb’s Pride worsted yarn for the weft. We learned how to make “pig tails” at the beginning and ending of colors at the edge of weaving (you may notice a pig tail mistake on the right edge of my tapestry…). She also showed us how to wrap “butterflies” of yarn for easy weaving. And we learned the “meet and separate” style for using two colors in one row of weft.

She showed a number of folks how to use three colors in one row, but I decided to restrict this first tapestry to just one or two colors per row. At the end of the workshop, Kristin allowed us to take extra yarn home to finish the weaving. I grabbed some. I wish I’d grabbed more; I would have liked to make this tapestry a bit larger, but I ran out of yarn, and the only Lamb’s Pride I’ve got in my stash is bulky and not in the right color range.

Anyway, I was trying to go for an impression of water and trees. I’m calling this humble beginning “Lakeshore”.

Although far from perfect, it's a start. I hope this is the first of many tapestries I get to weave.

Monday, May 6, 2013

L.A. on My Mind

One difficulty of having road trips in quick succession is that I don’t get enough time to mull over all the experiences of each trip. As I’ve been preparing for my Minnesota trip this past week, I’ve also been reflecting on my recent trip to Los Angeles.

So much happened during that trip. I’d like to share some more details.

My flight to L.A. was the most beautiful flight I’ve ever taken. I had a window seat on the right side of the plane, with a view mostly north. Much of the flight was through clear skies. As we approached the mountains in the west, I think we flew over southern Utah. I can’t be sure. It had recently snowed a bit, and the sun was lowering in the western sky, so the light was hitting the geological formations just right. The textures, patterns, and colors were endlessly mesmerizing. W.O.W. I didn’t even mind getting a bit of a stiff neck from looking to my right for such an extended time.

When I got to LAX, I was picked up by Ana Petrova. She was wearing a stunning vest that she’d designed and knitted. The pattern was an evolution of the “Wingspan” pattern by Maylin (Tri’Coterie Designs).

Ana was kind enough to give me a copy of her vest pattern. It will be a fun knit! And a swell vest to have in my wardrobe.

We chatted mostly about knitting over a delicious Thai dinner in the Venice beach area. Then Ana drove me to Anna Zinsmeister’s house in Burbank, where I stayed for the duration of my trip. Anna, her husband, and their two cats were all so kind and gracious. Anna was also my main taxi driver; she drove “the 405” while I relaxed.

Anna is a very accomplished weaver, and over breakfasts we chatted about my knitting and her weaving. We discovered that we are both currently exploring areas of our crafts that are quite similar. I’ve been playing with stitch patterns that pull in (ribs and welts), with fibers that are stretchy, and with spinning yarns that make ribs and welts do weird things. Anna is doing the same thing exect on a loom: weave structures that pull in, yarns that pull in, and their combinations.

And every once in awhile, Anna would pull out a weaving book about some topic that we discussed. I enjoyed my quick perusal of Ann Field’s Collapse Weave. Anna also showed me a very cool book about the tapestry art of Helena Hernmark. And she showed me another cool book that contained some intriguing approaches to weaving for beginners:  Spiders’ Games. A Book For Beginning Weavers, by Phylis Morrison. I got sucked in. I must hunt down this book for myself.

Anna also explained some work she’s been doing on her draw loom. She showed me the loom in her studio. It’s incredibly complicated. How did anyone think it up!?

We also chatted about photography, cameras, and photographing our craft work. She encouraged me to get the book by Steve Meltzer, Photographing Arts, Crafts & Collectibles. She also mentioned some articles by GregoryCase in old issues of the magazine Shuttle, Spindle & Dyepot.


I’ve already mentioned that the members of the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild were delightful. Many of the members who took my workshops, or who volunteered to assist with logistics, gave me gifts. Very sweet indeed! I regret that I didn’t make a note of who specifically gave me what specifically. Silly me.

One treat that I came home with was a small sample of a cotton/silk roving. I had taught a workshop there on spinning silk hankies, and one participant asked if I’d ever spun such a cotton-silk blend. I had not. So she gave me some to try. I spun up a bit of it yesterday. Quite nice indeed. I can envision a lovely 3-ply yarn for a summer sweater. Someday…

Another workshop participant, Nancy Boerman, has a fiber business: Custom Handweaving. In fact, she vendored on Saturday at the Guild’s meeting, when I bought some brightly dyed targhee combed top, some dyed silk caps, and 2 books:  Sarah Anderson’s TheSpinner’s Book of Yarn Designs, and Ann Field’s The Ashford Book Learn to Spin.

Nancy gifted me a sample of some top that is 70% Bluefaced Leicester in a natural oatmeal color and 30% tussah silk. I look forward to spinning this bit up!

Another spinnable gift was a few ziploc bags of thinly cut strips of cotton fabric. I wonder how I’ll incorporate this into yarn…..It should be fun! I watched one of the guild members using a blending board. I’d never seen that before, and I was fascinated by the “rolags” she was creating of wool blended with loads of tiny bits of cut up yarn. She then spun a rather cool looking yarn out of it. I want one of those boards now. Now!

Each night, Anna and a few other guild members took me out to dinner. How fun to get to know those folks over fabulous meals! On night, over Mexican food (and a delicious Margarita), Lorinda Chard (the person who originally contacted me to teach in L.A.) told me of a book that sounded so fascinating. A book for older children, a Newbery Medal winner: The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pene du Bois. And then! She sent me a copy! I’m taking it with me on my Minnesota trip as travel reading.

At the end of my last workshop on Sunday, the guild president, Leslie Rodier, honored me with a gift of an apron with the guild’s logo, and TWO boxes of chocolates. I am impressed with myself that I waited until I got home to open the chocolates. I’m even more impressed that there are a few still left.

What a terrific trip. So much to think about. So much to explore. I feel inspired and grateful.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

May Day! May Day!

OK, so yesterday was May Day. Did you celebrate by dancing around a Maypole? Or perhaps by honoring International Workers’ Day? Or maybe you just reveled in lovely Spring weather.

I do hope you were not calling for emergency help...

I spent the day still catching up with life after my most fabulous trip to Los Angeles. My experience in the LA area couldn’t have been nicer. The members of the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild were universally kind, generous, cheerful, and – well – fun! Not only did the workshops go well (entirely due to the workshop participants), but I enjoyed each evening’s dinner out. Thai, Italian, Mexican, Cuban. Delicious all! And the company was charming and the conversations were captivating. Thank you, GLASG!! I do hope I will get more chances to visit!

Back in my LA (Lake Ann), I have not yet completed the unpacking. Yesterday, I paid bills, did laundry, and walked my poochy-poo. I am thrilled that all evidence of snow is gone from my yard, but snow is not entirely gone from the neighborhood. I took this picture yesterday of one such lingering pile of snow:

I swear I will finish unpacking today, as I simultaneously repack for my Minnesota-bound trip. Wool, wool, and more wool. And samples. Gotta have samples.

I am especially looking forward to my Minnesota travels because I will be purchasing a number of fleeces along the way. Ex-Ci-Ting!