Sunday, June 16, 2013

Workshops, Workshops, and More Workshops

I’ve had a pause in my teaching travels. Now it’s time to get back on the road. Let me share with you a listing of my travels this summer and fall.

I leave tomorrow for Scranton, Pennsylvania. I’m teaching a three-day workshop, Spinning With Commercial Yarns, at the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association conference, June 21-23.

On July 9, I will be teaching a one-day version of the same workshop, this time for the Sunrise Spinning Guild, in Comins, Michigan. Shelia Robbins is the contact person. She is also the proprietor of a yarn shop in Alpena, Spruce Shadow Farms Yarn Shop. You can contact her by email,, or by phone, 989-356-9434.

August means only one thing: MichiganFiber Festival. This is always one of my favorite events. Workshops start on Wednesday, August 14, and continue through Sunday, August 18. Vendors and other activities run Friday – Sunday. I’ll be teaching every day. Spinning With Commercial Yarns on Wednesday, Beginning Spinning at the Wheel on Thursday, Spinning Super Stretchy Wools on Friday, Shaping With Stitch Patterns on Saturday, and Variations on Long Draw on Sunday morning.

September is the month I take the ferry across Lake Michigan to get to the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival, September 6-8. I’m teaching all three days: I Heart Duplicate Stitch and Spinning Marl Yarns on Friday; Shaping With Stitch Patterns on Saturday, and Blending Colors at the Wheel on Sunday. I hope I get some time to shop; the vendors at this event are fabulous!

I’ve got two events in October. First is Yarn in the Barn, sponsored by Briar Rose Fibers, and held in Caledonia, Michigan, October 3-5. I’m teaching Shaping With Stitch Patterns on Thursday, Plying Balanced Yarns and Plying for Texture on Friday, and Seams to Be on Saturday morning.

Next is Spin Off Autumn Retreat, aka SOAR. This year it will be held at Pheasant Run Resort, in St. Charles, Illinois, October 20-26. Last year I taught at SOAR for the first time. I was delighted to be asked back this year. The three-day workshop I’m teaching is Spinning With Millspun Yarns, Monday – Wednesday. Then I’ll be teaching two half-day retreat sessions, Mechanics of Your Wheel on Friday and Saturday mornings, and Spinning With Silk Hankies on Friday and Saturday afternoons.

This schedule ought to keep me plenty busy. That’s a good thing.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Toys? Or Treasured Tools?

Yesterday was Picture Perfect: a sunny day, blue skies, 65-68degF, enough of a breeze to keep the mosquitos at bay but not so much as to cause a chill.

I thought it was going to be just the day to take pictures outside in natural light of my new knitting bowl. But the sunshine just made a glare on the bowl. And when I put the bowl in some shade, the flash came on making glare too.

Today, however, it has been overcast. No glare today. The pictures worked! From now on I will see more potential for photo taking on grey days.

You may remember that near the beginning of this year, I broke the knitting bowl I’d been using for over 20 years. I did not glue it back together. I knew that I would just continue to lament the damage. I’ve kept the shards in a box. I plan to give them a proper burial when the time is right.

On my Minnesota trip in May, I found a new bowl that intrigued me enough to try it as my new knitting bowl. It’s made of walnut, a creation of Russ Johnson, 2011 (that’s what it says on the bottom of the bowl). I bought it at the vendor booth of Hillside Honey at Shepherd’s Harvest. I was quite drawn to the patterns in the wood. It even has an “eye”. Here are two pictures:

Funny, but most of my knitting since I got the bowl has not required a bowl. I’ve been knitting items with energized singles and energized yarns, so I’ve been knitting off the bobbin, with the bobbin on a lazy kate. But here is a picture of my bowl at work:

I’m knitting a pair of socks from an interesting yarn, “Cobasi” . It is composed of cotton, bamboo, and silk, with a bit of stretchy nylon. I’ve made one pair from it already and it seems that it will be a great yarn for summer socks. For the sock above, I’m using a free sock pattern, “Crimple” , by “knitpurlhunter” . I have made a few changes: I’m knitting it from the top down, and I plan to change the heel.

I am happy with the bowl. My only concern is that it is lighter than the ceramic bowl I was using. That hasn’t been a problem so far. By the way, the shopping at Shepherd's Harvest was first class. I wish I had had more time to visit all the vendors.

When I took pictures of this bowl, I got to thinking about two other “tools” I bought on my Minnesota trip. Actually, I got them at the Ben Franklin in Ironwood, Michigan, in the way west part of the Upper Peninsula.

I bought something called an “Embellish Knit!”. It makes I-cord. Fast. Now, I am crazy for I-cord. I incorporate frequently into my designs. So how could I resist this little gadget?! I am thinking I could make enough I-cord to use it as yarn and knit something out of it. Yes! Here’s a picture:

 Next to the Embellish Knit on the shelf was something called a “Knifty Knitter Straw Weaver”  . Here’s a bit of a preface: when I was in Los Angeles in April, one of the guild members at the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild  showed a very very simple tool for weaving during show-and-tell. I think she used a series of dowels but she mentioned that you could also use straws. I was fascinated with the simplicity of the device. So when I saw one in Ben Franklin, I had to get it. I had to. Here it is:

So, should I play with these things? Or work? I think both.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Three Sheep Farms in as Many Days

May was a month of fiber travel. Let me catch you up on the first part of my Minnesota-bound trip when I got to visit three delightful sheep farms.

I left lovely Lake Ann on Tuesday, May 7. Nearly all the winter snow was gone and it was a very warm, very sunny day. I drove north, crossing the Mackinac Bridge, and headed toward Munising, in the Upper Peninsula. Despite the very warm temperatures, I saw bits of remnant snow in the shadows of the trees and in the deep woods.

Fiddle Knoll Farm was my first stop. It’s not too far from Munising. Sue Kapla is the shepherd. She is a PhD trained psychologist and a certified applied animal behaviorist. A smart shepherd.

When I arrived at her home and farm, I was greeted by two Border Collies. These dogs are working dogs and they are important to the maintenance of the farm.

Sue showed me around the place. They were in the midst of lambing, so I saw a few day old babies. And there was one lamb all by itself. It had been one of a set of triplets. Shortly after the three had been born, two of them somehow got out of their pen. When Sue returned the last lamb to the ewe, the ewe rejected the lamb. So, Sue was obliged to bottle feed the lamb. In fact, it was time for a feeding when I arrive, so Sue let me feed it. And she let me pick it up for a quick cuddle. It’s amazing I didn’t take it home with me. Too too cute!

When Sue started raising sheep, she first had Border Cheviot and Clun Forest. She explained that she’d chosen those two breeds specifically to help train her Border Collies. Apparently the behaviors of Border Cheviot and Clun Forest are well suited for sheep dog training.

Once the dogs were trained, Sue switched to raising CVM (California Variegated Mutant; same genetically to Romeldale) and Romneys. So, I saw the CVMs and the Romneys. Very good looking animals all.

Although Sue did not have any CVM or Romney fleeces available – it was still too early in the year for shearing – she did have some rovings and tops available.

I bought some Border Cheviot roving and some Clun Forest roving from her previous sheep. Both rovings are springy. The Border Cheviot is a bit coarser than the Clun Forest. I have not had time to spin them yet. I also bought some luscious CVM combed top that was a very light grey. I’ve spun a tiny bit and it is wonderful!

Sue and I had a good long meandering chat, touching on topics ranging from academia to living a satisfying life to various sheep breeds to behaviors of dogs to weaving to spinning….you get the idea. It was a most delightful visit. Sue offered to pick out a CVM fleece for me from the 2014 crop. I can hardly wait!

I left Fiddle Knoll Farm and continued my trip through the U.P. The following day, I arrived in Duluth, Minnesota. I stayed a scant two days at Judy McL’s house. It is always nice to visit her. I know I’m going to eat well, sleep well, and have fiber adventures. On Thursday, we visited two sheep farms.

Oh, I’ve got to mention that when I arrived in Duluth on Wednesday, the weather was Practically Perfect in Every Way. We sat on the porch and drank cocktails. Very nice. But on Thursday, the weather had changed; the wind was coming off Lake Superior. Let me tell you: that wind is cold. Cold!

Anyway, first stop was at Lil Acre Farm. Judy introduced me to Kris Godden. She raises Olde English Babydoll sheep. These sheep are very distinctive looking. Some folks say they look like teddy bears. I think they look a bit like piglets; not particularly cute to my way of thinking. But! The lambs were adorable. They were extremely active, running and jumping and hopping. So, in motion I came to appreciate their looks. Here are two pictures that my friend, Judy, took:

And I love the fiber. Not particularly soft, but oh so elastic and very easy to spin. Perfect for mittens or socks. I bought a bit of roving. The Goddens don’t have a website, but you can contact them by phone, 218-729-9281, to arrange a visit or for other inquiries.

After that visit, we stopped at the farm of Marie and Paul Glaesemann. I’ve been there several times. Marie and Paul are well into their 80’s and have had livestock of some kind all their lives. They love the sheep, and they love having lambs. All their sheep are mixed breeds. So, there is a lot of variation among the fleeces. That’s a good thing. Some fleeces are long and lustrous, some are super springy, some are pleasantly soft. All the fleeces are very well sheared, very thoroughly skirted, and quite clean. Every year I look forward to Marie’s fleeces.

Here are two pictures – also taken by Judy – of some of Marie’s ewes and lambs.

And a picture of Marie, me, and Marie’s very old Morgan horse, Winston. He is a handsome older gent.

This year I bought 8 fleeces from Marie. Eight! They barely fit in my car, but they didn’t stay there for long. On Friday, I drove south toward “the cities” for Shepherd’s Harvest, where I taught workshops, dropped off my fleeces, and did some good fiber shopping. More on that soon.