Sunday, March 30, 2008

Susan's Fiber Shop Spinning Retreat 2008 - Saturday

Saturday was a lovely day here in Columbus, WI, and I got the chance to drive out to Susan's Fiber Shop, which is a building on her farm. Here's her barn and some of her sheep:

She had me try out a couple more wheels at her shop, including a Majacraft Suzie Pro and a Kromski Sonata. That Kromski is lovely -- the best thing I'd spun on all weekend, to date, and she let me bring it back to the hotel to spin on it some more during the rest of the day. (I'd wrestled with the Majacraft Rose at the hotel earlier in the day, and at various points in the afternoon and evening, and never did conquer that machine. The Rose is pretty, but fiddly, so I feel comfortable ruling it out as an option for my first wheel.)

I seriously considered buying the Kromski Sonata from Susan to bring back home with me on the plane, but later changed my mind after I was able to spin on a Lendrum for a bit. Now I'm back to my original thinking, that a Lendrum is probably what I'll end up with, and I don't feel the need to get one this weekend.

So, I won't be breaking my no-wheel-shall-cross-my-threshold-until-there's-room-in-my-house-for-it vow, at least not as of this morning. This gives me more time to declutter the house and make room for it, try out a few more friends' wheels, and most importantly, shop the wheel vendors at Maryland Sheep & Wool. I've waited this long; I can certainly wait another month.

Lots of other cool crafts, classes and demonstrations took place on Saturday, including shibetty-dyeing, shirret, braided rug making, spinning beaded yarns, sock machine knitting and navajo three-plying. Susan says she'll give me a one-on-one lesson of navajo-plying today, and I'm looking forward to that. I did get to try out a navajo spindle, and it's kinda cool but I was correct in my estimation that it won't be replacing my affection for top whorl suspended spindles.

All weekend long there's been a masseuse giving chair massages, which is a nice bonus. I've yet to avail myself of that benefit, and probably won't, as I have to leave to catch my flight in early afternoon.

So, I will end this, but direct you back to my Flickr photoset, where I've added more photos from yesterday.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Susan's Fiber Shop Spinning Retreat 2008 - Friday

Don't know if it's Blogger or my computer or my slow wireless connection here at the hotel, but I'm not able to upload multiple pictures at a time this morning, so I will give you just this one, and then refer you to my Flickr photoset for the full batch of photos from my first day at the spinning retreat.

The rest of this post will be narrative (yawn).

So, I left the greater Madison, WI area around 12:30 pm on Friday and arrived in Columbus about an hour later. The retreat is at a local hotel, and we've taken over what would normally be their breakfast room with 30-40 people and their various fiber tools - spindles, wheels, electric spinners, and fiber, of course.

Shortly after I arrived, Susan got me started practicing on that Schacht LadyBug wheel you see in the above photo, and gave me a quick lesson on spinning from the fold, which I'd been wanting to learn. I practiced that for the rest of the day.

I like this wheel. I don't know that I love it, but I don't hate it, either. Today, (Saturday), I'm going to try using a Majacraft Rose and perhaps a Lendrum. Looking forward to seeing how they all compare to one another. I suspect that if/when the time comes for me to buy a wheel, it will be a Lendrum because of it's affordability, portability and versatility, but I don't want to rule anyone else out yet. Frankly, that electric spinner seems pretty darn cool, and definitely appeals to my very wide lazy streak as well as my space limitations....

In between spinning sessions, Susan gave demonstrations on how to create novelty batts and fiber using a picker and a drum carder and tossing in things like cut up pieces of ribbon, fabric and the like. She also gave a demonstration on how to spin overspun novelty yarns like those created by PluckyFluff. (I think there's an article in the Spring '08 issue Spin Off on a similar topic, but since I haven't received my issue yet.... Are you listening, Interweave...?) Definitely fun and interesting demos, but not something I'll attempt anytime soon -- I'll just be happy to be able to create a decent amount of consistently smooth yarn and have the colors and plies do what I want.

Several of the attendees, as well as Susan herself, are also vendors here, and they've set up shop in their various hotel rooms. There is a lot of fiber, yarn, books, tools, buttons, patterns, and handicrafts available for sale at incredibly reasonable prices. Despite my suitcase space limitations, you better know I picked up a few goodies, including two gorgeous hand-painted rovings, some beautiful batts, a lovely new spindle (surprise!) made by the brother of one of the attendee-vendors, and a couple of patterns. I forgot to photograph the loot yesterday -- perhaps I'll get to that today. I also hope to take a field trip to Susan's shop today, which is just 10 minutes from the hotel. I'll definitely bring the camera.

Today we're having several demonstrations on how to create beaded yarns, how to navajo ply (yippee! been wanting to learn this!), and how to make yarn with multi-colored rovings without muddying the colors, which also seems like a valuable skill.

A gal spinning on a wheel near me yesterday uses the Navajo spindle as her primary spinning tool of choice, so I'm looking forward to seeing her demonstrate that today, although I don't think it will replace my love of the top whorl drop spindle.

Edited to add:

Forgot to mention -- the big buzz around Columbus, WI is that Johnny Depp (and a film crew) have been in town filming a movie about John Dillinger. Susan's niece, I think, got some photos of him in town, and Susan posted them on the wall for all to enjoy. I took pictures of the photos, which are in my Flickr photoset. Supposedly Mr. Depp was staying at the same Marriott where I was staying in Madison, but, alas, we did not cross paths.

Well, I better end this post, jump in the shower and get started with my day. Here's hoping I'm able to post again tomorrow! 'Til then....

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wisconsin wanderings....

I'm back in the greater Madison, WI area for another training class. This was the view outside the window at the training center today:

I never tire of the white stuff.

I arrived on Tuesday, and it was surprisingly warm -- almost 60 degrees, and much of the snow accumulation seen on my previous visit had melted.

The nearby lake ice was also starting to melt in places, yet was still mostly semi-frozen:

As is customary when I travel, I visited a yarn shop within an hour after arrival:

It's a combination quilt/yarn shop, and has a nice yarn selection for a place that's not 100% focused on knitting, including lots of Noro, Dream in Color Smooshy, Manos, and other lovelies. I grabbed a ball of Kid Merino in a pale mint green with the idea of creating an airy scarf using a mindless YO-k2tog lace pattern on large needles.

Tomorrow, I finish up my training class and then drive an hour to begin my weekend spinning retreat, which I'm very much looking forward to. I hope to have internet access at my lodging, and if so, should have at least one more blog post before I return home Sunday evening.

So, stay tuned!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Full Day

Yesterday I attended my first spinning guild meeting, and I picked a good day to join -- they were having their annual silent auction.

It was like a mini fiber festival -- so many lovely things for sale, including:



spindles, tools, odds & ends

and equipment

That antique wheel is circa 1870, according to someone there, and it sold for $25! I thought about bidding on it, but I stuck to my "no wheel shall cross my threshold until I have room for it" vow. And I'd really rather my first wheel not be a fixer-upper.

I did pick up a few other things:

clockwise from top left:
  • a batt of dyed angora/cormo/silk blend
  • ~3 oz. of cashmere roving from the goats of Kathy Oliver (of Scarlet Fleece fame)
  • Spinner figurine
  • little book -- "Your Handspinning"
  • Spin Off magazines from 1983 (year of my HS graduation, so they must be good)
  • Czech glass buttons
  • spindles from local woodworker ("Leaf Squeezer Turning") in (L-R): Bocote, Bubinga & Paduak woods

I left shortly after the auction was over because I had some birthday shopping to do at the nearby mall. While looking for a parking space, I couldn't help but notice this crazy car:

Apparently the owner works at the mall, because the car is there all the time, according to my sister-in-law who lives nearby. I suppose I've played right into the car owner's hands by posting these pictures on the web for all the world to see, but I found them too amusing to ignore.

Later, family & friends gathered to celebrate my brother's birthday a couple day's early. My always-capable sister-in-law served yummy hors d'oeuvres, traditional corned beef and cabbage, boiled potatoes, Irish soda bread, and of course, birthday cake:

not enough candles

And a good time was had by all.

On that note, I will end this, and wish everyone an early Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hooville Happenins

Last Saturday I took a little roadtrip and met up with knitting friend Robin H. in Charlottesville.

We rendezvoused at one of C'ville's fine yarn establishments:

which, wouldn't you know it, just happened to be having a 40% off sale on select items. I managed to resist most of the temptation and got out of there with just a handful of this:

Noro Blossom
color # 15, Lot A

which will probably make a nice... well... you guessed it -- a hat.

Afterwards, we had a delicious lunch across the way at Hamilton's and were met there by Robin's friend Chan, and then walked back across the mall to Cville Arts:

a cooperative gallery with a really lovely assortment of beautiful handcrafted items, including this gorgeous mosaic bench on display out front:

as well as framed art, pottery, jewelry, and even knitted items and handspun yarn. The owner raises angora bunnies and spins the fiber into yarn, and then knits that yarn into bunnies. Art imitating life! I picked up one of the bunnies:

Uther pen Dragon
hand-knit angora bunny

to give to my niece who has a birthday that's near Easter. The owner puts a lot of love into the creation of these, and was so cute when she wrapped him up -- she gave him a little impromptu kiss on the head, to send him on his way to his new home.

Next, we headed 7 miles east to Stony Mountain Fibers, and met up with two more knit-blogger friends, Margaret and Roseanne.

Such a pretty drive up the road to Barbara Gentry's place:

where she keeps a couple dozen head of Cormo sheep:

Inside the shop, we descended on Barbara's inventory like a plague of locusts, (well, not really, but it's fun to imagine it that way). Here's Robin amidst some pretty yarn and fiber:

and here's the whole gang:

L-R: Robin, Rosanne, Margaret, Chan & Barbara

Barbara was gracious enough to allow me to try out some of her spinning wheels, including a couple of Fricke's, a Majacraft Susie, and her very own Ashford Elizabeth. My favorite was the Majacraft - I really liked its smooth action. And although I'm not a whole lot closer to making a final decision or a purchase, it was still good to get a little more hands-on and feet-on (treadling) experience under my belt.

Barbara has a big bin of pin-drafted Cormo roving from her own flock, which was just too lovely to pass up, so I picked up four ounces:


Barbara has her fleeces processed by Zeilinger's, who clearly do a lovely job, so I've made a mental note of that for future reference, should I find myself with a fleece after an upcoming fiber festival. Zeilinger's does have a booth at MS&W after all. But, no, I have no business buying a sheep's worth of wool until I own a wheel, and perhaps not even then, at least not right away....

Soon it was time to say goodbye to all my fiber friends, and head back home down I-64E while being buffeted by Saturday's high winds, which, I was soon to discover, knocked out power at my house. Oh well -- that happens. Just makes you appreciate modern conveniences all the more....

On my way home, I hit another milestone:

Stopped on the side of the interstate to get that shot, as fierce winds whipped the car and traffic whizzed beside me. But you gotta catch these moments while they happen....

Anyone want to take bets on when and where I hit the big 100K?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

...and W also stands for...


As in, check out this architecture:

which sits incongruously across the street from this:

Yep, that's where I was taking a class last week. Way cool.

I did not make it to another yarn shop before I left, but did find a sushi place in town, so it's all good.

I have to be back there again for another class, week after next, and found out that Susan's Fiber Shop, a mere 45-minute drive away, is having a spinning retreat the weekend following my class, so I'm going to extend my visit through the weekend, and attend the retreat! She's going to loan me a wheel, since I don't yet own one, (and even if I did, I wouldn't be lugging it on planes with me).

Can't wait!

Closer to home, but on the same subject, I think I may attend this weekend's local spinning guild meeting -- it will be my first time. They're having a silent auction, which should be interesting. I look forward to meeting some other local spinners!

I have lots more things to blog about, but will try to post more tomorrow, (I hope).


Monday, March 03, 2008

W stands for...



...and Wisconsin, where I am through Wednesday. Yep, managed to find a yarn shop less than 24 hours after my arrival, and within 2 miles of where I'm taking a training class. And what a great little shop it is. A really nice selection of yarns, a Ladybug spinning wheel that anyone can try out, a little bit of fiber and even some spindles. I resisted the yarn, but yes I did add another spindle to my collection - a 1.1 oz Schacht hi-lo, which I plan to use as a high whorl only (but it's always nice to have options).

The best part about this shop, I think, is that the owner was smart enough to realize that knitters really do love to eat and drink while they knit, and with that knowledge, she devoted half the shop to selling lovely coffee drinks and sandwiches, including a warm seating area where one can sit and knit and/or eat & drink. The shop stays open until 8:30 on Tuesdays & Wednesdays, (another smart move), and I believe the owner said that every other Friday they have a wild, late-evening knit night until 11 pm. That's my kind of yarn shop! The owner, (whose name I failed to catch) was incredibly friendly and welcoming. I've got to be back here in the Madison area twice more over the next two months, so I think I'll be paying her shop another visit. There's also one or two other yarn shops in the Madison area; perhaps I'll try to visit the one near my hotel tomorrow.

Speaking of hotel, here's the view out my window this morning:

that's my rental car there, in the middle

The weather last night and this morning was nothing short of wretched, especially in comparison to the 60-degree temps I left on Sunday. Last night there was pouring rain (an odd "warm" spell for them with temps in the high 30's/low 40's), and rolling fog that made driving the very rural roads from the airport to the hotel a white-knuckled joyless joyride. At some point overnight, the rain turned to snow, and there was a new 2" of the white stuff coating everything by the time I scraped the car before heading to the training site. You know it's a bad sign when the hotel concierge, a Wisconsin native, says as you're walking out the front door, "you're going out in this?".... So, yes, another white-knuckled icy-road experience this morning, but I made it without harming myself, anyone else, or the rental car. My class instructor told us that this has been the worst Wisconsin winter on record - more snow than they've ever measured before. So, I guess I should be grateful that it wasn't -11 degrees like I heard it was a few weeks ago.

But these northerners are nothing if not efficient, and by this afternoon the roads were salted & scraped, clean and dry, with the help of some late day sunlight, so the driving back to the hotel was easy. High temperature today was about 25, which is surprisingly tolerable if one is wearing rabbit-lined leather gloves and the wind isn't blowing. I've always said that I like the cold, and winter, and snow, and that hasn't changed. In fact, when introducing ourselves today we had to share our favorite winter get-away; I shared that I'd never been this far north in winter, and was loving it, despite the horrible driving conditions. I believe tomorrow (Tuesday) should be cold and clear; Wednesday is supposed to see more precipitation.
It's very pretty here, if you like rural, snow-covered pastoral scenery, and I really do. There are farms and barns and silos everywhere, and clapboard houses rule the day -- nary a brick rancher to be seen anywhere. The very modern architecture of the complex where I'm training is quite a departure from the surrounding scenery -- I will try to get a photo or two of it tomorrow. But it stands in stark contrast to the surrounding countryside. Case in point -- that first photo up top was taken from my classroom window.

On one of my next trips up here, I may have to take a little road trip to visit Susan's Fiber Shop, just an hour or so away, in Columbus, WI. I hear nothing but great things, and was quite amazed at her offerings at SAFF last year. It would be fun to see her shop in person.

Well, it's been a full day, and I must say goodnight.

Until tomorrow, I wish you well!