Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Oh my god, it's gorgeous

This is what I get for surfing at work. This is silk yarn from Aurora Silk. Here's their description, "This yarn is good for knitting and crochet, and is a little heavier than the regular silk yarn. 4/2 N.m. aprox. 900 yds/lb. Skeins are 150 grams/5.4 oz, about 300 yds. Choose from 120 colors or natural (pictured)."

That is all.

2 down, one to go

I have 2 of the horrible mohair scarves for my nieces finished. The thing is, they're really not that horrible. They are a perfect length - I like scarves to be shorter than most people do because I hate having a lot of extra bulk around my neck. So these little beauties are perfect for going around your neck once and leaving an end in the front and an end in the back. The lace pattern is lovely and the mohair has bloomed so the scarves look all hazy. A couple of book stores gift certificates and I'm done shopping for them.

I've stalled on my Emerald Isle pullover. The pattern is a little complex, so I have to pay a lot of attention while knitting and I haven't been able to sit and concentrate on anything lately. On the other hand, my little weavette is getting a lot of use. Those little squares are mindless and they pile up very fast (come Amy, you know you want one...).

Is it the normal scheme of things that once you change something in a room, you want to change everything else too? I notice last night that the light fixture in the Louisiana room isn't bright enough (it's like the dark paint is sucking up all the light). So I convinced the Hub that we needed to go pick out new light fixtures. We went in to get a chandelier-type thing to hang in the Louisiana room and both liked this:

I love it when we agree on one thing. So while we're looking around, Hub spies this:

and wants not 1 but 2 of them for the living room. I said, "It looks like a street lamp." "Yeah," he replies, "isn't it great?" So, we came home with 2 of those as well. At least my dad has a project for tonight to keep him busy and out of the kitchen.

On the brother-in-law front, no news. Hub is hoping that he'll be too embarrassed to show up, but I think this man has never been embarrassed in his life (he's a little stupid that way) and he'll show up no matter what. I feel like I have to let him come, only for my sister. I'm waiting for her to wake up from this 12-year dream she's been in and realize that she's the only one working in the marriage. It created quite a rift between us when she married him (because I told her he was an idiot then) so I don't want to contribute to any more animosity. Her happiness is more important to me than one uncomfortable holiday. Hub and I decided last night that at least it won't be boring and we'll likely come out of it with some good stories. In other holiday news, my brother's in-laws will be at my tiny house as well. (17 people in 1200 square feet!) I'll keep you posted.

Hey Emma, you can come and have coffee and yarn with Jillian and me anytime. Just bring some nice clotted cream and scones, please.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Crabby Tuesday

First, I have to report that the Cool-iCam 3-in-1 Digital Pocket Cam from Smart Bargains is a bust. I know, I know, "you get what you pay for." Am I an optimist if I continue to hope that just once this adage is wrong? It was at my house on Friday when I got home from work so I tore into the box and whipped out the camera. I tried to take a couple of pictures and (because there's no flash) my subjects had to be right under the lights. Once I did get a couple of shots and downloaded them to the computer they were so grainy I could barely tell who they were. Wah. It's on its way back to Smart Bargains even as we speak. Time to shop for a real digital camera.

Had coffee with Jillian on Friday. She helped me pick out yarn for an office gift exchange scarf. One skein of mohair and 2 balls of Trendsetter Eyelash (I think). She promised I'd have it done on Friday night (I took it as a challenge). I did finish it early Saturday morning and it looks pretty cool. Sassy thinks it's the bomb and wants it for herself. I promised her that she'd have a scarf out of Splash next week. I can't show a picture, because then it wouldn't be a surprise for my co-workers. I'll get a picture next Tuesday showing the lucky recipient.

Good news on the painting front - my Louisiana room is gorgeous! I love the deep red color I picked. It makes the room very warm and cozy. The one thing I have left to do is clean up my desk. For some reason, everyone in my family thinks that if they pick something up and don't know where it belongs, they can drop it on my desk. So, the room looks lovely, but I have some major organization to do before Thursday.

One more thing, I need a bit of advice. Hypothetically speaking (ahem), how would you handle this situation: a man (say, your brother-in-law) who tells his wife (say, your sister) that he needs some space and leaves their home for an indefinite period of time. When his mother tells him that he isn't welcome in her home for an upcoming holiday, he calls his wife and asks if he can come to her family's gathering instead. Say this gathering is at your home and say you never really liked this man in the first place, but it's your sister asking...

Friday, November 21, 2003

I'm so bored

I think this always happens to me right before a holiday. I'm sitting at my desk and thinking about how much stuff I need to get done at home (everyone comes to my house for Thanksgiving) and can't think of anything fun to do here. Don't get me wrong - there's lots of stuff I COULD be doing. I just don't want to.

Did I tell you about this? It's called a Weavette (actually, that's a historical picture of a Weavette - mine has wood where the plastic pieces are in the photo). Nancy brought hers to SOAR and dared me to try it out. It was so much fun that I had to have one too. In a small box you get one 2x2 and one 4x4 size looms, 2 long needles, and a little instruction booklet. It's from a place called Buxton Brooks Designs. Go, now, and buy one. They also have pattern books you can buy - I didn't get one of those. I did buy a canvas bag to put all the stuff in (you can't have too many canvas bags).

What am I going to do with all those little 2x2 squares I'm weaving? I'm glad you asked. I took a natural dying/spinning class when I was pregnant with Sassy (it only seems like 100 years ago). Every week for 12 weeks, we showed up at the class with 4 skeins of white wool and went home with 4 skeins of dyed wool. The instructor used 4 different kinds of mordant to show how different each color could be. For example, last night I wove 4 squares of Queen Anne's lace dyed yarn. They were all slightly different because Beth had mordanted the skeins with alum, tin, iron, or copper sulfate (actually, I think the mordant was in the dyebath).

So, we'd show up with our skeins, stuff them into the dye pots and spend the next 2 hours trying out different kinds of spinning wheels. Beth and her husband had been collecting for YEARS. When we tried spinning on Great Wheels - each of us got one (probably 20 people in the class)! Once I had the opportunity to go down to Dave's workshop - it was like a spinning wheel parts yard. They'd go to estate/garage/rummage sales and pick up old wheels. Sometimes, he could fix up the wheel and sometimes he just used it for parts- very cool.

Anyway, I've had these skeins kicking around my house and studio for the last 9 years. Rudy (my workshop instructor at SOAR) mentioned that he had taken a similar class some years ago and he couldn't figure out what to do with all the skeins either. Then he bought a Weavette and made a wall hanging with them. The light went on in my head, so now I'm busily weaving little squares.

One interesting side note, I only heard about this natural dying workshop because a loud, crazy-haired woman in a weaving class talked about it and said it might be fun to have a go at natural dying. Extra points for anyone who can tell me who the crazy-haired woman was. I love it when life goes full-circle.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Go get one

Here's the skinny on my new toy, Gabrielle. Go to Smart Bargains and type "Cool-iCam 3-in-1 Digital Pocket Cam" into their search engine. You, too, can have a lovely new (cheap) toy. We'll all commiserate if it's junk.

I tripped into my LYS on Friday and decided to buy some yarn for scarves for my 3 nieces. I bought some mohair yarn that had a free pattern on the ball band. The pattern is simple, something like, knit a couple, do a triple decrease, throw in a few yarn overs. Row 2 is all knit. It's only over 30 stitches for god's sake! Do you know that for every 4 rows I do, I have to rip out 2? I'm a competent knitter, I can do cables and fair isle. WTF? Is it because it's mohair? (I hate mohair with the passion some people reserve for political figures.) I finished 1 and I'm halfway through 1 - I may never get to number 3!

I have been spinning up a storm on my little Hatchtown spindle. It's so much fun. I used to shake my head when hand spindlers would say to me, "Oh, it's slower by the hour, but faster by the week." I can take this little gem everywhere and I'm actually getting better at it. Something should be going well in my world.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Check this out

I have wanted a digital camera for a while now. It's a pain to have to borrow one from work or hunt down my mother-in-law to see if I can borrow hers. The problem is, I don't want to spend an arm and a leg for it. So, I was surfing this morning and came across this:

Is that the coolest little thing? All I want to use it for is to take pictures for the blog. I'm fairly certain it will do this well and it only cost $29.99!

So, I painted this weekend. My back hurts and my hands are swollen. Sitting at a computer all day really takes its toll on my fitness (it sucks!). However, my Louisiana room is a lovely shade of rave red (you'll see pictures as soon as I get my new toy) and I'm very happy with it.

I did manage to cross off one recipient on my ChrisTmas gift list. My mother-in-law informed me, "If you're going to buy me a gift this season, I'd like sock yarn." Hmmm. I told Jillian that I'm going to buy yarn for a month and when hub asks what I think I'm doing, I'll blithly say, "Oh this? It's for your mother."

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

It occurred to me after I posted yesterday that I had forgotten yet another thing I bought (sort of) at SOAR. Since I was spinning up a storm on my handspindle, I decided I needed wanted another one. Here's a picture of the kind I got:

These are Bosworth spindles and since I wanted a heavy one, I got the largest size (on the bottom right). They didn't have any more at the show, so Sheila was going to go back and see what they had in the heavy weight and let me know. She sent me an e-mail telling me what they had and when I picked one, she sent it in the afternoon mail. I love a merchant who trusts that you'll do what you say you will. So, I've been spinning on my Hatchtown and plying on my Bosworth. What a lucky girl I am.

Okay, anyone else official freaking out that ChrisTmas (that's for you Jillian) is only 43 days away? Here's my problem, I'm one of those freaks that shops for the holiday throughout the year. When one of my kids says, "Hey, mom, isn't this cool?" I make a mental note and go back and pick it up a couple of days later. This works really well for me because it spreads the cost of the whole thing out and I usually have a couple of gifts that I've forgotten about until I check the closet.

Guess how many gifts I have in the closet...two (2) - that's it, just 2. Here's who I have to buy for:
brother's 3 girls
sister's boy and girl
hub's 2 nephews and niece
Little big-man (already bought 1 gift)
Sassy (also comes in at 1 gift)

Hub has taken care of himself as he bought a boat earlier this year and just yesterday came home with one of these:

He won't tell me how much it cost, but I'm sure I'll figure it out. Kind of put the whole Journey Wheel thing in perspective for me. Men are such freaks.

So anyway - I have lots of shopping to do and I really don't want to do it. Anyone want to be my personal shopper?

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Room for one more, honey

I forgot that I had taken a picture of this, it's my Katie-a-go-go:

I think I mentioned that it was made from ambrosia maple - isn't it pretty? I know, it's just a tool, but I think it's important to have the most beautiful tools you can afford. The key word is "afford." Several years ago when I went to Maryland Sheep and Wool, I was looking for a niddy noddy. Back then I was saving as much money as I could to just buy fibers, so I went cheap on my niddy noddy. I think it cost me all of $6.00. It's raw wood and completely butt ugly - but it serves my purpose and I'm happy to have it. Could I buy a more expensive, more beautiful niddy noddy now? Sure. Would it have a story behind it? Nope. Every time I pick up that niddy noddy, I think of Nancy and Dorothy and the time we had on that trip. This Katie-a-go-go (which I'm convinced I would have bought just for the name) will remind me of SOAR everytime I use it and it has the plus of being gorgeous. The blue yarn you see on it is my second cop of yarn from my Hatchtown spindle.

So, here's what I'm working on now:

This is my first efforts at spinning and knitting swatches for the Nut Border Cardigan I talked about yesterday. The bottom area of the swatch is 2 strands (plied) of the brown polworth. It's dense and cushy and I really like it. The cardigan shown in Knits is rather tweedy. Nancy suggested that I buy the cinnamon alpaca to ply with the polworth to give it a more tweedy look, rather than just brown. This is the brown and cinnamon part of the swatch on the top (1 ply alpaca/1ply polworth). While I like the way it looks, it's much more 'raggy' than tweedy. What do you think? I think if I carded the polworth with the alpaca, it would be much more subtle - but I don't have that kind of patience. I haven't checked the stitch gauge yet, but I think it's fairly close as the wraps per inch were spot on (14 wpi). I also prefer the hand on the pure polworth part of the swatch. I can't wait to have a sweater made out of it!

Here's where I'd rather be today:

That's the view from our room at Shanty Creek. It actually has a little balcony too - just perfect for a couple of chairs and a place to set your margarita.

Monday, November 10, 2003


Here it is:

I did give you the run down last week, but I can take you through it again if you'd like. Starting at the big brown bag of fleece and moving clock wise...the big brown bag is from Rovings (in Canada) and is an entire Polworth fleece (500 gm). Right next to it is some of their hoggett top dyed in Landscape. Nancy bought some of their hoggett top too and that's the purple and red ball next to the Landscape (I don't remember the name of her colorway).

Next is the special SOAR roving from Carolina Homespun. Morgaine had 2 blends made, the bluer one is Lady of the Lake and the more rectangular shaped one is Shanty Creek 2003. These blends are so gorgeous and they don't show up well in the photo. There are slubs of color and texture througout both of them. I can't decide if they'll be socks, or a really nice scarf. Maybe I'll spin them first and then decide.

I already told you about the crochet bag (which is a hit everywhere I take it), so I'll move on to the 3 skeins just above the bag. These came from a booth that had a very small sign and of course, I don't remember the name of the place now. She had the most lovely colors and I kept visiting the blue skein all week. I bought these on Saturday afternoon - there's Moody Blues, Brick and Forest and they're 50% Merino and 50% silk.

Next is 2 balls of cinnamon alpaca roving from Luxury Natural Fibers in Ohio. Nancy bought a wonderful blend from her of angora/silk/merino (I think). Anyway, she spent the afternoon plucking angora off her face because it was so soft, she kept rubbing it on her cheek. Propped up on the alpaca is a 5" set of Bryspun needles in size 3. Below the needles is several ounces of 50% silk and 50% rayon. It was on sale and I couldn't resist. I have no idea what I'll do with it, but it sure is soft and shiny.

Next is a cluster of balls of roving from Never Enough Color (Deb Menz's booth). I know they don't look like they go together, but with the brown Polworth, I'll be knitting up the Nut Border Cardigan, Sasha Kagan's sweater featured in the latest Interweave Knits. I fell in love with the sweater (great shaping) and thought, "I can spin the yarn for this." It will be my first spinning to knit project, ever. I've been spinning some samples and I'll let you know how it goes.

Last, but not least, is a skein of orange-y roving from Bonkers. Nancy sent me over to pick something up for her and I fell in love with this color. I tried to guilt Nancy into paying for it with the logic that I wouldn't have bought it if I hadn't had to pick up her package, but no deal.

The only thing not pictured here (because I couldn't find them when I snapped the pic) are the silk packets from Treenway Silks. I'll try and dig them up to show you. They're so gorgeous I don't know if they'll ever be coming out of the packages - I may keep them just to look at them.

Here's one other purchase:

This is my new spinning chair from Winsome Timbers. The back rest hits me perfectly and I can spin for a long time without getting a back ache. Your mileage may vary, but I love this chair!

Has anyone seen a more beautiful face than this?

She saw me arranging my booty and then taking pictures. Because she's a ham, she jumped in and said, "Take one of me too mommy!"

Friday, November 07, 2003

Saturday Retreat Sessions

I was so excited about my first Saturday retreat session...Lynne Vogel and Debbie Schnabel - Hands on Color. I had been in and out of Nancy's workshop all week and saw the great yarns and cool things they were doing. Like this: Which is Lynne and Debbie's work - isn't it beautiful?

This is Lynne (dyer and spinner):

This is Debbie (spinner and knitter):

They are the Twisted Sister's ladies and the Twisted Sister's Sockbook is about way more than socks! I was really disappointed that I didn't bring my copy of the book to have it signed. Go take a look at this book and then buy it, I promise you won't be disappointed. In a nutshell, this class was about taking those beautifully colored rovings you see and making gorgeous yarn from them. Some techniques we learned include: separate each color and spin it from the fold to get distinct color changes and then Navajo ply to keep those colors intact. Or, split the roving in half, but leave it connected at the bottom and then spin it as one long piece. Then you Andean ply it and the colors should match up (more or less). There's lots more we covered in the class - and it's all in the book (I made sure to ask, so I wouldn't have to take notes).

Here's my epiphany for this class: it's possible for me to plan a sweater with different colors and then take white roving and dye it to match my sweater vision. I swear, I actually saw the light go on when Lynne was talking about dyeing to knit. It's all in my head, but I was thinking so fast to keep up with her talking, I'm not sure I can write it all down. This woman is amazing - if you ever get a chance to take a class with her - do it!! Travel to take a class with her, she's amazing.

Here are a couple of members of my workshop who ended up in this class the same time as me. Here's Mary Ann (and I think that's Joni behind her):

And this is Lori - after I said, "Show me the color!" (Maybe you had to be there.)

I wasn't so excited about my Saturday afternoon retreat (Plying: Hints and Tricks), but I figured maybe I'd be too tired and could skip it. I'm so glad I didn't. This is Maggie Casey:
and she's a Goddess. It's plying, how hard can it be? Well, it's not hard to do, but it is kind of hard to do well. I tend to overspin my yarn and hope that it all works out in the end. As spinners, we're told that our yarn should balance after it's plied - right when you take it off the bobbin. Maggie said, "Nope, that's completely wrong." If you let your yarn sit on your bobbins over night, that "sets" the twist. Then if you ply that yarn, your yarn should twist according to the direction you plied (which is what usually happens with me). The singles twist will only "wake up" after you wet the plied yarn - then it will balance and hang straight. That's pretty cool and made me feel much better about my yarn.

Here's Nancy in our plying retreat:
Once more I'd like to point out how rare it is when you find someone you can travel with. Nancy and I have been traveling all over the for the last couple of years (Maryland Sheep and Wool, Stitches, a day trip to TKGA in Lansing, another day trip to a fiber festival on the west side of the state, and now SOAR). She is a fabulous planner (has her own GPS and knows how to use it!) and always has maps and written directions for me, the navigator. All I have to do is knit and occasionally pull out the maps and say, "Take east to Jessup." We listen to NPR and chat, or just chill out. She never says, "Do you really need that extra cookie?" or "Wow, you're being bitchy," even though she's had ample opportunity to say both. So, let's hear it for good friends! Smooches and hugs going out to Nancy today.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Friday Retreat Sessions

Yup, I'm skipping right over Thursday - aka Market Day You're not that interested in what I bought, are you? Okay, Jillian, put your hand down and be patient.

This is Judith MacKenzie boiling water. Okay, okay, she's adding cool water to her vat (before adding freeze dried indigo) to drop the temperature. Apparently, indigo likes the water temp to be between 90 and 140 degrees. Judith says that if you're dying fabric, you can use the cooler temperatures. For yarn, try to stay as close to 140 as possible. If you go over 140, the indigo becomes inert (won't stick to what you're dying). All is not lost, however. If you cool the dye bath off, you can use a product that will reactivate the dye and you can continue.

There's so much to say about indigo, I'm not sure where to begin. There are lots of books that can help you with indigo dying much better than anything I can come up with here. What's cool about freeze dried indigo is that the hard work is done. All you have to do is heat up some water and sprinkle a very little bit of the crystals into your pot. There's no lye involved and it's fairly safe to work with. All the other rules about indigo stay the same (stir slowly, completely wet whatever you want dyed, add your materials to the side of the pot, etc.) - you still don't want to introduce oxygen into the bath. Here's what you get...

The darker skeins are actually brown yarn overdyed. It's difficult to see the difference in the picture, but I have a skein of it, and it's beautiful. The greenish colored skein started out as a putrid yellow that was way to bright for anyone's taste (except maybe Big Bird). I didn't take a picture of a cream colored Estonian scarf that Judith put in the pot. She planned on dipping it several more times over the next 3 retreat sessions. Nancy and I went back after every retreat to see how much the color had changed. It's absolutely beautiful. Judith said she would probably dip it at least 10 times - to get a deep, even blue.

I want to draw your attention to the 2 silk scarves in the photo. A couple of women in this retreat tied these up for Judith to toss into the bath. What they did was place dried chick peas on the fabric and then put rubber bands around the chick peas. The chick peas rehydrate in the bath and the rubber bands act as a resist (keeping the dye out) and you get a lovely square-ish pattern. I think both of these are random patterns, but Judith showed a gorgeous scarf she had done with diagonal lines of squares on the ends. In fact, she's wearing it in the photo of her above. You can't see the pattern, but you can make out some of the squares.

I wanted to bring some of the freeze dried indigo home, but the only vendor who had it - Morgaine at Carolina Homespun - had her truck stolen before she got to SOAR and the thieves emptied it out. (On a side note, if you see lots of cheap wheels and other fibery things for sale - please let Morgaine know.) Anyway, I had to be content to order it and she's going to ship as soon as she gets back to her shop.

This brings me to Friday afternoon. I toyed with the idea of taking the workshop on handspindles. When I first learned to spin, I had to use a drop spindle for a while and I hated it. I could never get the hang of the thing. As a spinner, however, I love the look of the things. There are so many different models - light, heavy, different kinds of wood, and shapes of the whorl...all that equipment! I decided against torturing myself and thought, "I'll just take a retreat session." This is Andrea Mielke

She is a very patient woman. The class was full of people, like me, who wanted to handspindle, but couldn't get the hang of it on their own. We made some spindles, but most everyone had at least 1 spindle they had bought (me included). I'm telling you, these little things are addictive! In the 3 hours of the retreat, I spun a cop of yarn on my spindle, Andean plied it, and have a nice little skein for my efforts. Andrea gave us a ton of fiber to play with, a couple of balls of combed top, as much carded fiber as we wanted (in several colors), and even some cotton. It was great fun.

Here's my Hatchtown spindle and skein of yarn. The little crochet bag (made by Carol Rhoades) came as a result of my bidding in the SOAR silent auction. Every year, Interweave gives scholarships to people to come to SOAR. This is the first year they've given full scholarships (Workshop & Retreat sessions) in the past, you could only get a scholarship for one or the other. Anyway, there were tons of items in the auction and I think everyone found something she liked. I was in a bidding war with a woman named Hope for a beautiful melon basket and some roving. Hope won - I tossed in the towel and bid on this gorgeous bag. It holds my spindle and about 8 oz of roving. I'm going to have to find something else to hold the spindle I ordered from the Bosworths that is on it's way to me right now. (Did you see how I sneaked that in?)

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Results of the Workshops

Okay, yesterday you saw some of my samples from Spinning Wool 201. On Wednesday evening, after dinner, we got to travel around to other people's workshops to see their results. My friend Nancy took the workshop on spinning with colored rovings with Lynne Vogel. Here are some shots of what they did.

Each person had to spin yarn and make a finished product with it. Nancy made the small bag at the top of the screen. You can also see her "energized singles," look for the point protectors and the bobbin in front of her little bag. You can also see the "beer cozy" that one womn made.

Apparently, when the class was making up their display, the bags looked a little funny lying flat on the table, so they were discussing things to put inside the bags to make them dimensional. When the class suggested that one woman's bag looked like a toilet paper cozy, she took them up on it. Here is the toilet paper cozy in all it's glory!

Lynne taught a variety of ways in which you can use rovings with dozens of colors in them without making muddy yarn. This intrigued me because I've seen gorgeous rovings that just end up making terrible yarn. I stepped into this workshop a couple of times and the class seemed to be having a good time - and it was a huge class!

These are from the needle felting workshop (forgive me, but I don't know who taught the class):

Isn't she the most gorgeous thing?! I asked the woman who was doing her if she was going to have a tattoo of sailor on her arm. No deal.

These 2 are absolutely my favorite. You can't see much detail, but the piece made me thing of Rodin's The Kiss. Nancy and I walked around on Tuesday night and saw most of the dolls complete - they did these in 2 days! One the third day, they made 2-dimensional pictures. It looked like a really cool class.

Nancy Schroyer taught a class on fair isle techniques. Here are some samples from that class:

They all used the same pattern for their swatches. It's amazing how different each piece can look when all you change are the colors. There was a bit of homework for this class as they all had to finish a sizeable sample. They cut steeks and put in button holes - all in 3 days. It's amazing what you can get done when all you have to focus on is fiber!

Okay, back to work for me. Tomorrow: Friday retreat sessions.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Spinning Wool 201

That was the title of my workshop at SOAR. (For those of you unfamiliar with SOAR, it's an acronym for Spin-Off Autumn Retreat. Spin-Off is a magazine published by Interweave Press.) So anyway, see that it says wool in the title? I didn't read the course description correctly and thought that Spinning 201 would give me an introduction to fibers other than wool (like silk, cashmere, alpaca, etc). This led to a little disappointment on my part when the workshop began. However, about 5 minutes into it - I knew it was the exact workshop for me.

I took a spinning/natural dying class many years ago that taught me the basics of spinning and gave me a chance to spin on a lot of different wheels with a lot of different fibers. The problem is, I didn't appreciate all the differences because I was just trying to make a decent yarn that held together for more than 5 seconds.

This man:
is Rudy Amann. He taught me more in a couple of days than I have managed to figure out in all the years I've been spinning. If you ever get a chance to take a class with him - do it. He is kind and patient and encouraged us to ask questions and make recommendations to make the workshop better.

I have an entire ziploc bag full of samples that I spun in the 3 days. I didn't take pictures of all of them (how boring), but I will include a few.

The 2 brown skeins on are Polworth, very bottom is spun worsted style and the second one from the bottom is spun woolen style. The 2 white skeins are merino, again, bottom one is spun worsted and top is spun woolen. Here's the difference, when you spin worsted, you're trying to get a nice, smooth yarn. You do this by keeping the twist out of the drafting triangle and smoothing any errant fibers down as you pull from the fiber source and allow the twist to come into the yarn. With woolen yarn, you're trying to trap air between the fibers resulting in a soft, lofty, springy yarn. Here, you let the twist advance into the drafting triangle - no smoothing. You can tell the difference best with the Polworth samples. The top one looks a little fuzzier.

These 2 skeins were both spun worsted style. The difference is that I spun the bottom one on day one of the workshop and the top one was spun on day 2. The differences don't show up very well in the photo, but believe me, you can see it when you hold the skeins. This is what I mean about learning from Rudy - I improved about 50% in just 1 day!

I've already been trying out some of the techniques he taught. I'm planning my first spin to knit project on the Sasha Kagan sweater featured in the latest Interweave Knits. I'll talk more about it later in the week, but I'm working on sample skeins right now in the evenings and I'm pretty pleased with what I'm doing. THANKS Rudy!!

On another note, here's my favorite classmate:
This is Tracy, the Diet Pepsi Queen. She saved me from having to spend $1.50 on inferior product (Diet Coke) by schlepping out to a grocery store to buy Diet Pepsi - and then she shared with me. Tracy's a lurker here - tell her how much fun it is to leave comments!

Here are all my other favorite classmates:
Don't we look like we're having fun? Seriously though, it was a terrific class. When Rudy had extra fiber bags, everyone wanted the Polworth (spins like a dream). He only had 5-6 bags left (for a class of 14). Several people said, "Oh, that's okay, let someone else have those, I'll take something else." We made Rudy divy up the bags and we were all happy with the extras we received. I was stunned - no one got cranky or hostile - what a cool group!

Monday, November 03, 2003!!!

(Remember Janice from Friends?)

SOAR was fabulous. I can't even describe how fabulous it was. There's something about a week with like-minded people that just changes your attitude. Huge kudos go out to the Interweave Press staff - Nancy Disney, Vicki Yost, Amy Clarke, Liz Gipson, and Carol (I don't remember her last name, but she's Linda Ligon's assistant), these women worked tirelessly to make sure everyone had a good time. Also, the staff at Shanty Creek was amazing. We had good food, good meeting rooms, and clean guest rooms to go back to each night.

Jillian's last e-mail to me on October 24 said "BUY EVERYTHING." Well, I didn't buy everything, but I did give it the old college try. Here's a short list:

spinning chair from Winsome Timbers
a dark brown Polworth fleece and a hoget combed top in the Lakeshore colorway from Rovings
assorted colors of Bullen's Woolens from Deb Menz (for a project I'll explain later)
4 different colors of silk (in 25 gm bags) from Treenway Silks
a Katie-a-Go-Go from Susan's Fiber Shop
Isn't it cool? Mine's made from Ambrosia Maple and has a cool pattern in it. I opened every Kate she had to get the prettiest one.

freeze dried indigo from Carolina Homespun
an orange roving from Bonkers
some cinammon alpaca from a place in Ohio (can't remember the name)
and a few other fibers (I'll have photos later in the week)

I went with the intention of buying this: That's a Fiona wheel from Winsome Timbers. I sat, I spun, I thought. It occurred to me that I have a very heavy wheel (Schact) and it's a little difficult to transport back and forth from classes. I thought some more and came to the conclusion that I needed a portable wheel. I tried this one: It's a Majacraft Gem and has a triangle for an orifice. I didn't like it. It "thrummed" when I spun on it. I don't know if that makes sense or not, but it made this noise and vibration that was really irritating to me. I did see some with the regular orifice, but apparently Majacraft doesn't make it like that anymore.

Then I tried this one: It's a Canadian made Lendrum and spins like a dream. I thought I'd found my portable wheel. It folds over and fits in a bag you can wear on your back (of course the bag is extra). I told Gordon Lendrum that I'd think about it and figured I'd be back later to exchange money and wheel.

Then I turned a corner and saw this: (Okay, I didn't really see that one - I saw a double treadle one, but I prefer single treadle.) Jonathan Bosworth sort of beckoned me over and said, "Have a seat and try it out." I fell in love - with the wheel, not him (although he's a very nice man). My friend Nancy had a seat and spun for a while. We both said, "It's nice," and walked on. Truth is, it spins like heaven. It was set up for Scotch tension (I prefer double drive), but I had no trouble adjusting it so the take up was perfect for me. The fiber slipped through my fingers and made a perfect, even yarn. Nancy stopped at a booth just a ways down and I kept looking back at that Journey Wheel. I sneaked back to the booth and sat down again. While I was in spinning heaven, Jonathan came back and said, "Ah, you're back." He gave me a demonstration on how to change the bobbin (way easy) and how to close it up. The thing folds up to about the size of carry-on luggage; and it weighs only 15 pounds. Have you figured it out yet? I put down a deposit on the Journey Wheel. I can take delivery in November or February (which ever I prefer). I believe I'll be taking deliver in November - I don't know if I can wait until February.

Okay, I took lots of pictures, but left the disks at home this morning. I'll give you all a full report on the classes and the people as the week goes on. I've given you lots of stuff to look at today - imagine seeing all this (and lots more) in person - it's overwhelming! Look around and have a good time.