Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007


As promised a week ago, here is some of the loot from my recent foray into western North Carolina, purchased either at SAFF, at the John C. Campbell Folk School craft shop, or somewhere in Asheville:

superwash wool from Brooks Farm's booth at SAFF
(as soft as merino!)


2 oz. cashmere roving
from The Trading Post's booth @ SAFF

bottom whorl drop spindle earrings
from Susan's Fiber Shop booth at SAFF

various books & DVDs

"Least Ones" - tiny carved animals
from Folk School craft shop

lovely turned little wooden bowl
from Folk School craft shop

lapel pin for my friend D. (^ about actual size)
from Folk School craft shop

guitar earrings for me (^larger than actual size)
from Folk School craft shop

ceramic teapot whistle - front & back
from Folk School craft shop

wooden tops - static & spinning
from Folk School craft shop
(Margaret -- pick out your prize!)


Malabrigo & Koigu purchased at Yarn Paradise in Asheville

pattern book purchased at Yarn Paradise
specifically for ^this cute pattern


I also picked up a few cards and postcards from various places, including Yarn Circle down in Murphy, the Folk School craft shop, and from Biltmore's gift shop, but for the life of me, I can't find them right now, so, please just imagine some pretty scenic postcards. :-)

Since I've been home, I've been hotly pursuing some lovely, elusive drop spindles on the internet, and finally made some choices which should arrive sometime this week, I hope. I'll show those here, when they arrive.

An easier choice to make was the purchase of this lovely pencil roving from Crown Mountain Farm which just arrived on Friday, and which I'm itching to try:

colorways (L-R): "As Above So Below", "Plane of Bliss"

And here's something I didn't realize I already owned, until just the other day:

spinning chair

I purchased that chair at a neighborhood antique store about five years ago, just because I liked its unique look and thought it would go well in my house, which has a sort of log cabin feel with its pine floors & cabinets, (seen above), pine wainscoting, pine interior doors and, in two rooms, pine & beam ceilings. When I bought the chair, I didn't know the chair's original purpose, or why it had such a funny back.

But sometime in the past week I saw a picture on the internet of a spinning chair, and it all clicked. I said to myself -- "I have one of those!" I'd purchased it back before I'd learned how to knit, back before I had the slightest interest in fiber play of any kind. Interesting, don't you think? It's actually not the real deal, I don't think -- doesn't seem sturdy enough for that. I think it's just a cheap decorative item, but I still like it.

Now I just need a wheel to go with it! But I feel no hurry to leap into such a momentous and expensive purchase. I plan on taking my sweet time and enjoying the process of test-driving wheels at as many places as I can get to over the next year.

And here at home, I need to clear a space for such an item, to make room for another new hobby in my house and in my life. I'm not as bad as that woman on Oprah this week who'd hoarded 75 tons and three tractor-trailer loads full of crap inside her 3,000 sq.ft. house, but I do, (ahem), need to do some purging and organizing (see: missing postcards, above).

So, for now, I will happily make yarn on a drop spindle. :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Farewell to Asheville & western NC

Apparently, by tomorrow, I actually meant a week from tomorrow, when I said I'd next be blogging about my last day in Asheville in my most recent post. Funny how pesky things like employment interfere with our best laid plans.

Anyway, if you're still with me, I believe I left you with a description of last Saturday in Asheville, which was just lovely. The following Sunday was equally as lovely.

It was the one-and-only day of my 9-day trip where I did not have firm plans in the morning or early afternoon, and knowing that, coupled with the extra hour from daylight savings time, I took full advantage and did not set an alarm Saturday night when I went to bed. Ten hours later, (!), I awoke refreshed and happy to have caught up on some much-needed sleep. I then got a call from my friends and we made plans to meet for brunch at the Boathouse restaurant, in Arden, on Lake Julian.

It has a fairly humble front entrance:

...but no one complained about our view:

Lake Julian

I had a hearty and delicious brunch of eggs, sausage, and blueberry pancakes. Heaven.

After brunch, we said our goodbyes and parted ways in the restaurant parking lot, and I still had time to hit one more yarn shop before heading to the airport. I drove back to Biltmore Village and visited Yarn Paradise:

and was duly impressed with their vast yarn selection. There were even shelves and shelves of bags of yarn upstairs, in case the choices downstairs weren't enough. I have to admit that my restraint crumbled a bit, and I didn't leave there empty-handed, but came away with a pattern book, some Koigu and some Malabrigo laceweight. I know -- I'm weak.

After my visit to Yarn Paradise, it was time to head on to the airport, and I was able to say a fond farewell, from the air, to the beautiful western North Carolina landscape:

Those smokestacks in the picture are very close to where we ate brunch -- they're part of a power plant that turns the dammed water of Lake Julian into clean kilowatt energy. Gotta like that....

My flights were uneventful, and I made it safely home, with a newfound love for a newly discovered region of North Carolina. I hope to go back soon and often.

I also hope to post, in the near future, a photographic synopsis of the loot acquired on this trip. That is, if folks aren't tired of hearing about it....


Edited later to add:

Photo slideshow of my time spent in Asheville can be seen here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Asheville & Biltmore Estate

My western North Carolina adventure continued this past weekend in Asheville, NC. Saturday afternoon I drove to downtown Asheville, near the Grove Arcade, and wandered around...

(giant iron appears about to crush street musician)

...peeking into many cool little shops and galleries, including a Woolworth's that's been converted into an art gallery, yet still retains a Woolworth's lunch counter/soda fountain:

Here's some of the art:

I then found the local gourmet chocolate shop -- Chocolate Fetish, and came away from there with some delicious edible souvenirs, a few of which I've already enjoyed. Yum!

I wandered some more and found the downtown yarn shop:

which is very cool. Lots of nice yarns, arranged mainly by color; and they have a daybed in the back of the shop where I would imagine regulars might sit (lay?) and knit. I didn't spend much time (or any money) in there, as shortly after I got there, my cell phone rang, (saved by the bell?), and I was off to meet some friends for a nice lunch of chicken Caesar salad and potato & bacon soup at Carmel's restaurant, a couple blocks away.

After lunch we poked around a few more shops downtown, and I managed to find another yarn shop within the Grove Arcade -- Asheville Home Crafts, (no photo, though), but again, I maintained restraint and left empty-handed. (After all, I can make my own yarn, now, right!) ;-) My friend Maria did buy a cute, hand-knit beret there, however.

Finally, we were off to Biltmore Estate:

to visit the winery:

for a wine tasting:

me, Norma, Catherine, Maria
We were allowed to sample eight different wines, and I think my favorite of those eight was the "Christmas at Biltmore Rose". Delish. All of their wines were quite nice. If I were driving rather than flying home, I would have purchased a few bottles to take with me. And I just discovered that unfortunately, they don't ship wine to Virginia, but if I want some bad enough, I can have some shipped to my sister in NC. It's also possible that some of the Richmond wine shops carry Biltmore wines. [Edited later to add: My sister informs me that my brother-in-law, a beverage distributor, carries Biltmore wines. I have a source in the family!]

After the wine tasting, we parked down behind the greenhouse so as to walk through their lovely formal gardens on our way up the house, and then went on the candlelight Christmas tour of America's largest home:

As you might imagine, that place is just incredible. More ornate than most cathedrals, I had to keep reminding myself that this 8,000 acre, 25,000 sq.ft, 250-room property was once someone's home. Mind-boggling, for sure. What impressed me, most, room after room, were the fantastic ceilings -- gorgeous, yet different in every room -- some carved, some fabric, and as amazing as the rest of furnishings and decor. The tour was far more extensive than I imagined it would be, and we got to see the Vanderbilt's bedrooms, guest rooms, children's rooms, billiard room, library, sitting rooms, dining rooms, bathrooms, (indoor plumbing in Appalachia at the turn of the 20th century -- unheard of!), servant's quarters, kitchens, pantries, laundry, bowling alley and indoor pool.

The house is still privately owned by the Cecil family, great-grandchildren of George Vanderbilt, and I would think that owning such a legacy is an enormous responsibility. Here's hoping they still get to have the occasional family party there, even as they have graciously shared the place with the rest of the world.

After our lovely candlelight tour, we fumbled our way back to the car in the dark, and drove to Biltmore Village for a wonderful dinner at Rezaz, a Mediterranean restaurant, where I had the osso bucco and a delicious chocolate pot de creme for dessert. A very nice place indeed, and we stayed so long we ended up closing the place, which the staff didn't seem to mind.

Then it was back to my hotel for a sweet night's sleep that included an extra hour, thanks to daylight's savings time. Love this time of year!

Tomorrow, I'll share my Sunday adventures.

Friday, November 02, 2007

John C. Campbell Folk School - Day 5

Last day at the folk school, I'm very sad to say. Morning dawned with a blanket of mountain mist over the entire region:

I had to get picture of this road sign, which made me chuckle every time I drove past it:

Apparently, even rural little Brasstown has a rush hour, right at Clay's Corner at the intersection of Brasstown Road and Old Highway 64. I've yet to see it.

Once inside the studio, I had to get a few more pictures of my 2-ply handspun, which I'm pretty proud of:

I then spun up a partial bobbin of my teal roving on the Lendrum, and a second partial bobbin on instructor Annie's single-treadle Ashford Traditional, and I have to say, I really like that Ashford, perhaps as much as the Lendrum.

I then plied the two bobbins together and made this little skein:

I am pleased and proud

Also this morning, we students gathered secretly in the herb garden next to Davidson Hall, (where our studio is located), and practiced a fiber-related song that Sheri wrote the night before, to be sung to our instructors:
Teachers Annie and Susan were appropriately enthusiastic. :-)

At the end of the day, we set up a display of our wonderful handspun yarns and a few of the beginners' knitting projects up at the Keith House meeting hall, along with displays of other classes' projects. Some lovely things! I took lots of pictures, and will post them out to Flickr and link to them in a later post.

There was also a little concert provided by the bluegrass class, and we got to finally hear the melody that goes along with the thumping bass and foot tapping we'd been hearing through our ceiling all week. Seemed like a fun class.

In fact, all the classes seem like fun, and I absolutely, positively want to come back. More fiber classes, for sure -- I really want to take their next fair isle class. And a few non-fiber-related classes also appeal, including beginning mandolin and calligraphy. I need to pace myself, but boy, I'd love to come back again next year, at least once. I am looking forward to getting their latest catalog, which should be mailed out sometime in the next few weeks.

Tonight I ate one final dinner with my fellow folk school students and instructors, and then reluctantly got in my car and left the beautiful cocoon that is Brasstown and the Folk School, for points northeast. I am now safely nestled in my Asheville hotel, and am verrrry ready to turn out the lamp and go to sleep.

But before I go, I must tell you -- we have a winner! There were quite a few very clever guesses as to what are the actual "stones" in Annie's earrings (photo in Wednesday's post). A few of you came very close, but only one person got it exactly right, and it is Margaret. She guessed that the stones are sheep poo, and she is correct. Dried and varnished sheep poo, if that helps one get over the ick factor. Even varnished, I don't know that I could wear such earrings.

Anyway -- congratulations, Margaret! I'll post a picture for you of the several tops I purchased, and you may have your pick.

Tomorrow -- Biltmore!



Edited later to add:

Photo slideshow of my week at the John C. Campbell Folk School can be seen here.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

John C. Campbell Folk School - Day 4

Yet another glorious day here in Brasstown, NC.

Today, I set this little demon aside:

and moved to a single-treadle Lendrum, which I like a whole lot more than that back-breaking Louet. It helps that I'm now a little familiar with the Lendrum after Sunday's class at SAFF, although that Lendrum was a double-treadle. And I do really like the Lendrum ergonomics, with that bigger wheel leaning towards me.

I drum-carded the rest of my flicked white Corriedale fiber, and spun up most of it into singles, and then plied it. Alas, I forgot to take a picture of the white 2-ply today -- maybe tomorrow. It's a definite improvement over Sunday's atrocious "yarn", but is still a beginner's yarn.

Here's a bobbin of singles being spun:

(or should I say "overspun")

While we spun (span? spinned? what is the correct past tense of "spin"? anyone?) this morning, instructor Annie gave us a brief & interesting lecture to go with the handouts she gave us on "How to Knit an Appalachian Shawl". And this afternoon, she gave us her presentation on "Knitting: From the Sacred to the Profane", (originally given to her spinning guild). Very interesting! I wish she'd publish it sometime, because I'd love to see it again. I did get some good book references from it that I will be following up on, including one called "Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years", which looks fascinating, if you're into textile history.

Also this afternoon, I pulled off a little bit of that teal roving I bought at SAFF and spun a few yards of it before calling it a day. That little tease of color was enough to make me want more, more, more, so tomorrow, I'm going to try spinning with that all day, on the Lendrum, and on any other wheels I can get my hands on. And perhaps a drop spindle, as well.

I have more of the gray Corriedale fiber left that still needs to be carded, but I'd rather spend what's left of my time tomorrow spinning. And since I feel it's a very safe assumption that I'll never be processing a fleece straight off the sheep, I think I'll send what's left of my raw, uncarded fiber home with one of my classmates -- perhaps Sheri, who can ply it with some of her llama fiber -- she's already got a wheel at home. (And I have too much stuff to bring home on the plane as it is.) So, I believe I'll be spinning processed roving, from now on.

Speaking of Sheri, here she is flanked by instructor Annie and co-instructor Susan, proudly showing her plied llama & corriedale yarn on the niddy noddy:

(that's Annie's Ashford wheel in front of them)

And here are a couple of Annie's beautiful shawls:

lovely lace

Appalachian shawl

Tonight, after yet another delicious folk school dinner, several of us knitters met again in the Keith House library and knitted and chatted and gossiped and laughed for a couple hours before heading off to bed. Such a fun group of gals -- I will miss them after tomorrow. (...*sob*!...)

One more day here, and then it's back up to Asheville for a tour of Biltmore's Christmas decor on Saturday; flying home on Sunday. I'm sure I'll be ready for home by then, but right now, I'd love to stay down here at the folk school a few more days. I just need to carefully plan my next trip to the folk school. So, who's with me? ;-)

Oh, and about yesterday's quiz -- so far, no correct answers, although one was fairly close, so I'll keep the competition open until, say, Sunday or Monday. Again, first comment with the correct answer will be considered the winner, so, vote early and often.