Thursday, November 29, 2007

Adventures in Spinning, Part VIa: As The Wheel Turns

Friday evening was spent at the home - no, farm - of one of the organizers of the workshop. Darlene had us all over for dessert and to have some social time with Anne. OK - so there are no streetlights to speak of in the village where I live, but there are no streetlights West of the Super 8. I'm driving . . . and driving . . . and praying that I don't miss the gravel road that leads to the dirt road that leads to Darlene's house . . . We made it! It's not often that you get to see so many stars - there was virtually no ambient light!

Saturday came early, but both Judi and I were up and ready to go. We got to Memorial Hall early enough that we could take a walk around the town square - after sitting all day on Friday, it seemed like a good idea. Lamar was sort of like stepping into another time . . . the courthouse in the middle of the square, and surrounding it shops, the post office and the local movie theater. Saturday night was to be the start of the holiday season in Lamar - the town Christmas parade was scheduled for 6:05 p.m., and all the shops around the square would be open . . . ;-)

We headed back to Memorial Hall and settled in for what would prove to be a full day of spinning. Wow! Friday afternoon we had worked on the Corriedale. Saturday morning was spent on our coarser wools, my Cotswold. Anne saved the most challenging for last: the Rambouillet was really a fight. It didn't help that my fast flyer was defective. However, once I figured that out and switched back to my regular flyer, things went a little better.

Late in the afternoon, we all sat down again for some lecture time. We'd been working (sometimes fighting) with crimps and twists, doing piles of math and calculations, all to gain a better understanding of what could be the best choices for whatever fiber we found ourselves with. I could not imagine spinning and counting treadles for the rest of my spinning career (I did try this once before the workshop and it didn't go very well . . . ), so imagine my relief when Anne sat us down and said, "you don't spin like this." Everyone exhaled.

No, you don't spin like this - but it's like learning addition and subtraction so that you can balance your checkbook: because I learned these fundamentals that start with crimps per inch, I can apply that knowledge as I choose fleece for specific projects and have more options and choices open to me about how I might want to spin a fleece to gain a desired end result.

I also learned not to be afraid. To whit: I have had a mountain of fleece sitting here that I was afraid to spin because, being a beginner, I didn't want to "ick it up." After spinning Cotswold into a silky rope, and Rambouillet into sewing thread, I have no fear. There is always more fiber :-)

At lunch, Janet Wray, a local independent dyer brought some of her Shetland Isle Collection sock yarns and roving in for some shopping!! Wheee!!!! (Note: her site is up but still under construction.) I got three skeins of some of the prettiest sock yarn I've seen. If you're on Ravelry, you can see it in my stash.

When class was over for the day, Judi and I convinced a few of our classmates to go to the Christmas parade with us. First we took a trip to The Java Mule (Lamar does NOT have a Starbucks :-D), which is a really cool place and if I lived in Lamar, I would go there every day. Then, we took a walk around the square because all the shops were open! And then we walked off the square to the local florist, where one of the guild members works. I did a little shopping here, and added to the water fowl group that lives around my fireplace.
The parade in the square was small - a few floats, the junior high school and high school bands , the local Christmas Queen, a couple of horse-drawn coaches, the local Harley riders, and of course, Santa on the fire truck at the end! It was wonderful!! And it was 65 degrees out! I couldn't believe it.
One more day . . .

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Adventures in Spinning, Part VI: A Field in Missouri

Friday arrived and I reloaded the car. It's amazing how much stuff I had to bring with me - my wheel, a basket of fiber (that's another story), my chair. That pretty much took up the entire back of the bullet car. Anyway, Judi and I got over to Memorial Hall around 8:15 a.m., and started to unload and set up. Luckily, once we were set up (Cedric and Lambchop helped), we were able to leave our wheels and everything in place for all three days. This was a great time-saver.

Tables were moved. Chairs were shifted, and I started to meet the women of Fiber Folks of Southwest Missouri, the guild that had sponsored this workshop. What an interesting bunch of women! Many of them live on working farms - a concept that is totally foreign to this city girl - and some of them have day-jobs in addition to getting up early for chores! All of them share a great love of fiber in all its forms. And all of them made both me and my friend, Judi, feel welcome and included in their group. This was shaping up to be a great time!

A Field in Missouri - I couldn't help myself! No, we weren't in a field, but Anne Field was there, in Missouri, on what was her last teaching stop before returning to New Zealand. The morning was spent on lecture and discussion about crimp. Anne also checked on the wool that some of us had brought with us to be sure it met the requirements for the workshop (it did). This particular workshop is based on Anne's book, Spinning Wool - Beyond the Basics, and if you are able to score a copy of it, it is a very great reference! The morning flew by with talk of crimp and twists per inch - pretty technical, and I was worried . . . I was the "youngest" spinner in the room, having only been at the wheel since June of this year, and I was worried that I might not be able to keep up and might not understand what she was wanting us to do . . .

After a couple of visits from the hotty bald fireman (!) to regulate the temperature in the hall, lunch was ready and we all sat down together to a spread of sandwiches and homemade soup, and of course, my favorite: chips! :-D Anyone who knows me knows I love potatoes, in all their forms. Must be my Irish heritage . . .
Soon enough, lunch was over and we did some spinning. We had three wools to work with, a coarse (mine was Cotswold, everyone else had Lincoln), a medium (Corriedale) and a fine (Rambouillet).

At the end of the day, Anne said that it had been the hardest day. She lied. :-D Saturday proved to be the hardest, as evidenced by how completely wiped we all were on Sunday!

Here are the fruits of our spinning to the crimp exercises. Coarse, Medium and Fine. Blogger wouldn't let me set them straight across, so they are vertical.

First in line is my Cotswold (actually spun on Saturday). These locks were actually like hair. Shiny, lustrous curls! You can't see the raw lock in this photo, but it had about 2 crimps to the inch. this is most coarse wool I have spun yet, and getting it to 2 twists to match the crimp was an exercise in stuffing it through the orifice as fast as I could :-D This was the second wool we worked on - first was the Corriedale.

Here is the first attempt, done on Friday afternoon. A medium crimp wool similar to what many of us spin most of the time. Corriedale. I felt pretty comfortable with this wool - it was really much more in my comfort zone (experience zone) than either of the other two we worked with. On the sheet - in case you're wondering - is the singles, then at the bottom is the plied yarn before washing and then more after washing. We calculated crimp and loft and used that information to calculate how many twists per inch were needed, and how many wraps per inch we should get. It was fascinating!

And last, but certainly not least, this is the Rambouillet. All of Saturday afternoon. A millions crimps to the inch and the finest yarn I have spun to date. OK - I'm exaggerating. This had 16 crimps to the inch and Anne told us it was the finest she had ever attempted with one of her classes! She gave us all high marks for it :-) I used my fast flyer for the first time - and discovered that it was ROUGH. No wonder it was on eBay . . . :-( Thankfully, Karen, one of the guild ladies is a collector of spinning wheels (she has 38!) and her husband fixes stuff . . . and to make a long story short, he took my fast flyer home and ground it out and fixed it!!! Yay!!!!! Thank you, Gene!!!!! I had to use my regular flyer to spin this - I never treadled so hard in my life ;-D
More to come . . .

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Adventures in Spinning, Part V: Road Trip!!

Last weekend I was lucky enough to participate in a 3-day spinning workshop taught by New Zealand spinner and weaver, Ann Field. She is an amazing woman - so talented and so willing and able to share her knowledge. I am very grateful that I had this opportunity - and I feel like my spinning took a quantum leap during the intense study. The workshop was held in Lamar, Missouri (very hightech website for this little country town! :-) ), and sponsored by Fiber Folks of Southwest Missouri and the University of Missouri Extension.

I headed South at 0 dark 30. I was glad that I had packed most of the car the night before! Before I got to Lamar (birthplace of President Truman!), I made a stop about half way, at The Loopy Ewe, in St. Louis, and got to meet the owner, Sheri! that's her, looking very excited to be spinning! Since I was passing through, I picked up an order that I had placed a couple of days before, and Sheri got to try out my Lendrum spinning wheel. Please be kind. I had been on the road since 5:30 a.m. that morning . . . I'm looking quite a bit the worse for wear, I'm afraid :-D On my way out, I could not resist taking this photo of the red hutch / sideboard. Cedric, my travel gnome, was quite irritated that he had been left in the car, particularly after he found out about the elves sign (gnomes, elves - cousins? I don't know). At any rate, to appease him, he's been digitally inserted, which is why he's looking a little tippy ;-)

After a lovely visit with Sheri and, of course - some shopping, I got back on the road, and headed West on I44 and it was like greeting an old friend. I have driven across the country a number of times, and in the late 1990s, I drove all of Old Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. In Missouri, I44 parallels the Mother Road pretty much all the way across the state.

I am always amazed at how the geography changes as you cross a state line. Illinois is flat. In fact, there is an old joke about Illinois being the only state where you can sit on your front porch and watch your dog run away. For 20 miles. Yes, it's really that flat :-D But once you cross the Mighty Mississippi, you are pretty much instantly into the rolling hills of Southern Missouri. It was enough warmer there than in Chicagoland, that I got to see some really beautiful fall colors along the road.

The afternoon sped by, and I made it to Lamar by 5:10 p.m., got into my room at the Super 8 and unpacked. I met my friend, Judi (she was the reason I went to this workshop! She talked me into it), and then took a quick drive to the town square to scope out where we would be meeting the next day. Lamar is truly a small town - this city girl felt like she was really out in farm country! Nine hours behind the wheel was enough to ensure that I hit the hay very early - plus, I wanted to be well-rested for Friday . . .

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Show-Me State

There is so much to tell that I don't know where to start with the story of Anne Field's workshop in Lamar, Missouri. I will start, but not today - I'm wiped after the 9 1/2-hour drive home.

In the meantime, I'm apparently making the rounds of knitting blogs . . . I had so much fun visiting Sheri at The Loopy Ewe on Thursday (on my way to Lamar). I picked up my latest order, and now I'm a Loopy Groupie. I also had my photo taken there (first Franklin and now Sheri). :-D

Sheri - I'm sorry you didn't go for the Lendrum, but I'm thrilled that you are going to be spinning!! Yay!!!

Watch this space - more to come!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

AARRGGGHHHHH!!!!!!

I'm sitting here, in my workout clothes - missing my workout - trying to get my Palm LifeDrive to sync . . . and it won't . . . and, thinking that I was doing the SAFE sync (which equates, of course, to me as the safest way to get my data onto the laptop), it would appear that I have just completely erased and reset my device, thus losing EVERYTHING that I wanted to sync to my laptop.

This is irritating. Oh, who am I kidding? My HAIR IS STANDING ON END and it's not from bedhead.

I keep trying to use these stupid devices and invariably they become nothing more than an expensive electronic phonebook - and now I've lost even that. I switched from PocketPC to Palm because I really wanted to be able to use the WeightWatchers software. Of course - and they DON'T TELL YOU THIS UPFRONT - with the device I got, you have to have a wireless connection to be able to use the WW software. I don't have a wireless connection. I don't want a wireless connection. No Wireless = No WW software.

JesusMaryandJoseph I just wanted to get my updated contact list into the computer. Stupid LifeDrive. It's sitting there, just looking at me with the reset screen still on . . . and it's not doing anything. It should have done something by now . . . Great. It's frozen.

I HATE THIS.

Why is it when you think you're getting something great, it often turns out to be virtually unusable???? The same thing just happened to me with my Ravelry T-Shirt. They were selling these T-shirts, and they had that cute "women's cut" available in addition to the general Beefy-T from Hanes. I was very excited to see MY SIZE in the cute cut - I was so happy to see it that I ordered it!!! No more Beefy-T's for me!!!! Wheeee!!! A cute tee in MY SIZE!!!!!!

You see where this is going, don't you? I know you do if you got one of the limited edition Ravelry shirts in the "AA" style. My cute t-shirt came. And it would fit a toddler. I'm not joking. OK - so, I shouldn't have gotten all excited without reading the fine print. Except I never saw any fine print - I was blinded by the light of seeing something cute in my size. Who knew that there is a company who made up their own sizing with no regard whatsoever to general sizing standards and principles. Live and learn.

Oh - OH!!!!!! OHMYGOD!!!!!! My Palm!!!!!! It worked!!!! Thank you thank you thank you, God!!!! This is one of my luckier lucky days. I have no idea what just happened, but my Palm just reset itself and did not lose any data AT ALL. Wheeeeee!!! I take it back - I take it all back!!! Well, not the part about the toddler-sized t-shirt.

OK, I'm not so cranky about missing my workout after all.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Adventures in Spinning, Part IV

Time for another episode of . . . Adventures in Spinning!

I haven't added to this saga since August - but I've been a busy little spinner. I found a teacher here - PatsyZ - and I must tell you that learning to spin is way easier if you have a live person next to you rather than a book. Not that there aren't very good reference manuals for spinning - check out Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning, by Judith MacKenzie McCuin - but having a true expert sitting next to you - teaching you, demonstrating exactly what drafting is, explaining the difference between worsted and woolen in a way that makes the lightbulb go on for you - well, you just can't beat that with a stick. :-D

PatsyZ is a great teacher - if she's teaching a workshop or class near you, don't hesitate to sign up. I am getting more and more consistent in my spinning, and learning more every lesson.

So - what have I been spinning, you ask? All sorts of stuff! Right now I'm working with locks of Blue-Faced Leicester and learning to comb and card correctly. Lots of practice with my own new handcards, and my Forsythe mini combs - I should have two full bobbins of woolen and worsted very shortly, and will ply that yarn up and see what I get.

I've also been spinning the Colonial wool I mentioned awhile back. I'm nearly finished with the green and will start on the blue shortly. These will be plied together to make a sort of "Black Watch" yarn. I hope to have enough to make some socks.

Most of my spinning has been at approximately DK weight. I've been working on being able to spin finer singles. One of my homework assignments is to spin the 4 oz of combed Merino superwash top that I got at YarnCon. I'm to spin it as fine as I can, with an eye toward 3-ply, fingering weight yarn. Wish me Luck! :-)

And what of the Iona sweater?? Well, that project has been put on hold for a little while longer. Why?, you ask. Because, the more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn. So far, I've learned that I want the fiber I use to be combed top so that I can spin a strong worsted yarn. I hope to make it 3-ply, which means finer spinning. I know that I want to be able to spin consistently enough and finely enough to get good, sturdy 3-ply worsted for this project. And I'm going to need a LOT of it. Cables take up a lot of yarn. I'm getting closer all the time!

This week holds an exciting adventure - a 3-day workshop taught by Anne Field! I'm so excited about this - and nervous, too!

Check back later for the next installment of Adventures in Spinning! I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress ;-)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I am One in 1,000

It was a Dark and Stormy Night. . . Literally. On Friday night, October 26th, I got off my usual train, freshened up my makeup, hopped in the auto, and made my way to My Sister's Knits, my favorite local yarn store, to have my picture taken by Franklin Habit for his 1,000 Knitters project. I had had the chance to do this a couple of weeks earlier at the YarnCon event, but I knew that he would be coming down to the Southland, and I really wanted to support the shoot locally.

I made it to the expressway, and just as I was heading up the ramp, the heavens opened. I mean it was like an upside down gusher. I made it to Beverly and was worried that I wouldn't get a parking spot close to the store. I have an umbrella in the auto, but it was raining so hard that the water seemed to be bouncing back up off the sidewalk! Luck! The Parking Goddess was with me, however, and I got a spot practically in front of the store :-) I passed a very enjoyable hour or so - meeting Franklin again, chatting some, and getting my photo made, and then sitting talking with Jan and store owner, Carol - and of course, opening my wallet. Some very nice Noro Kureyon and some Artyarns Regal Silk jumped in my bag, along with a few new books! And I went home with some very good ideas for very stretchy socks!

OK, actually, I'm 0221 in 1,000. I'm the one in the middle!!! For all that I just do not like to have my picture taken, I really wanted to participate in this project . . . and I'm absurdly thrilled that mine is featured on his blog. :-D Thank you Franklin.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Take Me To MARSHALL FIELD'S

Once again, the store formerly known as Marshall Field's is throwing good money after bad with their latest advertising campaign designed to bring people back to the State Street store . . .

Hello??? Anyone??? Bueller??? This is JUST NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. No one wants to shop at the M store in Chicagoland. We want to shop at Marshall Field's. Period.

I mean, REALLY - how long is it going to take before they publicly acknowledge the worst marketing mistake since "New Coke?" Every day I walk down Randolph Street, and for the most part, the windows are "in process." And when they are occasionally unveiled, they hold the most godawful excuses for fashion I've ever seen . . . OK, the recent St. John windows actually had clothes that looked like someone in Chicago would actually wear them, so of course those windows were up for like, a week, tops.

I have continued to have the courage of my convictions - I don't shop there. I don't even go inside. I'm taking my money elsewhere - to places that appreciate me as a consumer, but I sure do miss me my Walnut Room, and Field Gear, and the Benefit makeup counter, and Field Days and the Christmas tree, and the Tiffany ceiling.

I wrote one of my better letters to Federated CEO, Terry Lundgren, when all this went down. But, according to their surveys, no one really cared if they changed the name of the most beloved store in Chicago. WHO DID THEY ASK??? Clearly not anyone who actually shopped there. I see the main floor everyday through the doors when I walk by, and it's a ghost town.

I'm voting with my pocket book. I, personally, have not set foot in the store since the name change. I have waited outside for others (in the rain, I might add) who wanted to spend the free gift cards they received. I toss out the gift cards they send to me.

Come on, Federated - give us back our Field's. Please. Dump the gaudy, cheap red stars and give us back our dark green bags. Take a cue from Marshall Field . . . give the lady what she wants. How can you not have figured it out yet that all we want is our Field's back?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fiber-O-Rama

Another very fun, all-day trip to The Fold yesterday. Linda, Jamie, Rachael and I headed out early (after one of Linda's world-class frittatas, made with eggs from her own chickens) and made it to Marengo shortly after 10 a.m. Toni is always so welcoming and was very happy to see us! Both Jamie and I brought our wheels, and we passed a very enjoyable morning in the cozy spinning space in Toni's store. Here's the gang.

Lunch in town - this time at a place called Dino's. We tried going to a Cafe place, but as we walked in the door, it was like walking into a horror movie for me - every single person in the place was smoking. I have asthma, and cigarette smoke is one of my triggers. I panicked (cue the Psycho shower music). Literally. And we went across the street - where every table also had an ashtray on it, but there was only one person in the place with a smoke, and he actually went next door to the bar. The food was pretty good! But, I think we'll likely stick with Flatlander in the future.

A stop at Marengo Feed and Seed (Linda's chickens . . . ;-D) and we headed back to Toni's.

In two weeks I am attending a 3-day spinning workshop, taught by Anne Field, in Lamar, Missouri. It's called Spinning Wool Beyond the Basics. For this workshop, I needed fine, medium and coarse wool, and some carded sliver. For a variety of reasons that I'll skip (you'd thank me), I needed to have my fiber already washed. Who ya gonna call? Who else?

When I spoke to Toni at the beginning of October about this, she said she didn't have any fleece, BUT that she was going to Rhinebeck (I keep hearing about this Rhinebeck . . . ) and would get me what I needed there and would wash it, saving me a raw lock of each, as requested, for the workshop. So - yesterday was the day for me to pick up my fiber - hence the road trip to Marengo.

Wheeee! It's all wonderful!!! And ALL stuff that I have have not had the opportunity to spin before. I have Cotswold, I have have Rambouillet, I have Corriedale!!! And the sliver is Cormo!! This is very exciting!! I have my own hand cards! Schacht (which I found much easier to use than Ashford). I have my own flick carder (Ashford)! Oh, and I broke down and got a ball winder! !!! :-D

Here is the back of the car . . . it's not quite as bad at it actually appears, because there is 50 pounds of chicken grit, and 75 pounds of chicken food for Linda's chickens in there, and it takes up a really lot of room; however, you can see why we always take my car on these excursions. :-D

On the way home - we made a stop at a brand new place: Grace Farm Studios where I got some more fiber I have not tried before: Icelandic wool roving (Holliberry Icelandics - from a sheep named Firethorn! That's not him, that's Aragorn, but he's about the same color). Jamie and Rachael each made smaller purchases. It's a very nice place, and worth the stop if you're in the Woodstock/Marengo area.

One more stop - at a DunkinDonuts for Jamie and Linda to get coffee - I swear, I never heard such a palaver over coffee - McDonald's wouldn't do, gas station coffee wouldn't do. I was ready to put them both out of the car! But, they got their coffee and all was calm - and we headed back to the City.

A lovely end to a lovely day - as Rachael and Jamie went on their respective ways, Linda and I spend a great evening looking at knitting books (a never-ending source of entertainment, it seems ;-D) and enjoying a great dinner together.

This has been a real week of prep for this workshop. After my last lesson with PatsyZ, she loaned me her Forsythe mini wool combs. This is one of those things where you just sort of KNOW that something is right for you. As I knew with my Lendrum wheel, I knew - without trying any others - that the Forsythe combs are the combs for me. I decided to go ahead and get a pair, and discovered the guy who makes them is on sabbatical! Mad calling around the country to find some . . . no luck, until I got to The Shuttleworks, in Canada. Forsythe Mini Viking Wool combs w/clamp are on their way to me - along with the 4-pitch combs (I'm a complete maniac).
I'm ready to go - and a little anxious. I am a beginner, and I've discovered that I'm more intuitive than technical with my spinning thus far. Anne Field appears to me to be just the opposite, so this will be a real learning experience, I'm sure :-)