Pictures courtesy of Malcolm.
When I travel, I don’t just buy yarn. Sometimes I buy fiber to spin. Sometimes I even knit that fiber. As I get ready for the Carolina Fiber Frolic at the end of this month (info and link in top left corner), I have decided to use last years special colorway for some spinning practice. I’m even knitting it into a cowl for the tiny competition we usually have.
Beth from Whorling Tides fibers in Alabama (I think) prepared the fiber for this to suggest the Charleston area sunset over the marsh. I spun a dk weight 2 ply worsted from the braid. The colors are a bit drabbed by the plying, but not as much as this picture.
This detail shot shows them better. I really think this is the best yarn I’ve ever spun. I’m getting turned on to my wheel again as I get ready to go to the 2012 Frolic and teach some knitting.
I’m sure I’ll pick up some spinning tips from the others there. I am teaching when the classes I wanted to take are given.
I did buy a new book. Ann Potter of Pilot Mountain Llamas told me about Jacey Boggs and her art yarn classes. Later I met someone who had taken one of her classes and was blown away by both the techniques and her teaching. So when I saw her new book and DVD for sale at Knitpicks, I grabbed it. Today the dogs and I watched the DVD and I am excited to try these things. I have lots of practice top(fiber prepared for spinning worsted) in the attic and I will let you know how it goes.
Here’s some stuff I bought at SAFF about 4 years ago. It is marvelous to look at and to feel. I include a picture with the website.
Hmmmmmmm–well the website is http://www.galesart.com
This is spun larger than the Falkland above and the plying is sort of spiraled which showed the colors better. The colors are this vivid. Gotta love silk.
No idea what this will be, except it will be mine.
What CFF is not—
It is not a massive number of fiber people meeting around a marketplace center designed to introduce new products and sell you lots of yarn and fiber. Such events have their place, but this isn’t it.
Mostly CFF is not massive.
CFF is not in New York, Chicago, LA or even Charlotte. “Awayness” is an important part of CFF. Even more important, it is here in the southeast.
What CFF is—
CFF is a gathering of fiber people—spinners, knitters, weavers, dyers, crocheters of all ability levels. For me the word gathering has an intimate quality, and that describes CFF. Last year I arrived knowing only 3 or 4 people. I left having met almost everyone there and having email addresses leading me to help and advice in my fiber activities.
I taught too many classes so I was unable to take any. Even so, people taught me new skills. While hanging out after class, Anne Potter and Jane taught me to spin novelty yarn, loaning me a wheel and supplies.
In the small, select vendor area, I met Linda, one of the owners of a shop 20 minutes away from me. Listening to her spinning students showed me she was just the person I needed to take me from beginner to advanced beginner spinner. I arranged a private lesson at Rainy Day Creations, her shop in Pineville, and she taught me to make the most of my little wheel. I still don’t spin very often, but I really like knowing how.
This year Fleegle from Fleeglesblog is coming and will teach a class on spinning with a supported spindle. (You rest the spindle in a bowl. This avoids that word DROP, which is the one that describes my spinning with a drop spindle. The ethnic spindles used for this are neat.) I want to learn this. This is the way those Russian women spin the yarn for their Orenburg lace shawls; you know, the ones you can pull through your wedding ring. (Also check out her method for short rows which I have had bookmarked for years.)
Unlike the big events, CFF is like grown-up camp—at least during the day. Classes provide equipment if you don’t own it, so you can try new things without a long term commitment. Knowing how to weave changes how you look at fabric, even when shopping for a new outfit. Knowing a bit about spinning helps you make fewer mistakes in your yarn choices. But these aren’t the only reasons you need to know about CFF.
CFF was created by local (NC/SC line near Charlotte) fiber artist Jan Smiley. Jan felt we needed a fun, friendly, educational option HERE in the southeast. The first two years were held at the Middleton Plantation near Charleston. This year, CFF moves to the Sapphire Valley in NC—yea, mountains. Scheduling in the off-season allows participants a great price break on lodging. You won’t believe how great.
I have booked a 2 bedroom condo at a resort—Foxtrot Sapphire Resort—for $115 a night. This condo is fully equipped, sleeps 6, includes pools, hot tubs, Jacuzzi tubs, tennis courts, workout facilities and several restaurants if I wanted to use them. Yes, $115 a night. Divide that by the number of friends you bring. I am planning to take DH and maybe some other family. The Hampton Inn is a bit closer to our meeting facilities and has wonderful reviews on hotel.com. Jan has negotiated a special group price there of $89. They do include breakfast.
The registration fee includes most of your meals, and your non attending guests can purchase a meal plan and join the group for meals. We eat very well. Highlands, NC, is not far away and has some interesting and excellent restaurants as well.
Now—all of that being said, the community of people who will gather is still the most important thing. Classes are very important—both the skills and the people involved—but the hanging out is more so—at least to me. I came back with new friends, new skills, new ideas and so much enthusiasm for my craft. I cannot wait to get there this year.
Please join me. You won’t regret it. Email me if you have questions. I’d love to tell you more.
Linda taught me how to use the whorls on my Joy Wheel to better spin the yarn I wanted. I actually managed a two ply Worsted weight with this Louet shetland wool. I only got fingering weight before this.
You know when you buy a skein of yarn and it is the pits to wind because of a glitch at the factory. The yarn has one strand wound differently from all the others and this tangles things annoyingly. The marker marks this strand on the skein I wound.
I’m going to be much more tolerant about this in the future.
Shetland wood top from Louet spun S worsted, plied Z
124 yds. That’s all I know.
I wasn’t at all excited to hear that novelty yarns are coming back into favor.
Now I am. Some of this is going to find its way into a wall piece. I think.
More, later. I am knitting, too.
Again, I didn’t take near enough pictures. Fortunately Jan and Tom did and I’ll link you to them as soon as they are available.
The vendors–only three, but all came with benefits.
Beth Dinoff of Whorling Tides brought her gorgeous dyed roving and braids all the way from Tuscaloosa. Beth taught a class in making batts so she had lots of things to add to her fiber to create some interesting product.
Beth also dyes a special batch for the Frolic each year. This year’s colorway is based on a sunset they saw during last year’s Frolic. Those who are interested buy the braid and make something to bring back next year. No rules on what or how. Then the group will vote on which item they like best and Beth awards a prize.
This is Linda Philpott from Rainy Day Creations in Pineville, NC. Her shop is just down the road from me in a quaint little revamped downtown. She called me before the event to ask how she could support my classes. I thought that was so generous. She brought beads; I bought beads. She also had some new yarns I hadn’t seen, so I got my hands on some things to swatch for future projects. She also has some gorgeous fibers for spinning or wet felting. She and Pat, whose picture I didn’t get, were both teaching.
Pat taught weaving on the rigid heddle loom that they sell at the shop. People were weaving scarves and home dec wall pieces and even lace. Her class is a great way to decide if you would like to work with a loom before you invest in one.
Note: Sharon in the pic above has the perfect “fiber husband.” He surprised her at Christmas with this weekend at the Frolic.
Linda taught a class on getting acquainted with your wheel. She does talk about ratios and other technical jargon, but gives you permission to listen politely and ignore it if you are just a seat of the pants spinner. I couldn’t take her class because I was teaching, but I do want to set up some private lessons with her. I know she can make me a better spinner in a very short time.
Ann owns a farm, Pilot Mountain Llamas, north of Winston-Salem where she has a few llamas, a few alpacas, a few angora goats and a family–not in that order. She did a slide show for us about the animals and the fiber that taught us so much as we were rolling on the floor laughing. Llama sex deserves some research!
Since peopling her farm with animals, Ann has become a real rancher. She even shears her own animals, including the famously uncooperative alpacas. Then she sells the fiber to make money to buy llama food. She is another fiber addict that just tries to support her habit. But she does it with glitz and style.
I watched her effortlessly making art yarn with bumps and swirls and bits and flecks. She could see the lust in my heart. I touched her gorgeous batts with mixed fibers and colors and bits and pieces and knew that I could spin them into mediocrity and it would be a sin. Ann said, “Oh, Jane will show you how. It’s simple and easy.” Yeah, I’ve heard that before. But–
Saturday morning I had a break and I sat down at a wheel with Jane ( an incredibly funny woman who pretends to be a real grouch, but doesn’t quite pull it off. It’s the good heart that trips her up.) Five minutes and I was spinning artyarn. Here’s the important direction. “Just let it go.” This was core spinning and all you do is let it go and the fiber wraps around the core. If you mess up and let some of the core show, that’s called design. If you glob up some of the fiber, that’s called design. If you break the fiber and have a lumpy rejoin, that’s called design. You cannot make a mistake!!!!
Once you are done, you ply the yarn with a thin thread. Even, consistent plying is just boring, so you can’t make a mistake here either. And with Ann’s batts, you can’t make ugly. I am the queen of ugly multicolored yarns, so I know how to make ugly.I was so happy doing this, I was just stupid. I was so happy with the final product, I was almost, not quite, speechless. I wore my skein around my neck and bored everyone to death with the story of it—-as some would say I am still doing.
You just have to do this.
How many other things can you name where you cannot make a mistake?
I bought more batts.
And some threads to ply them with—as well as do a bit of embroidery.
I realized that Ann and Jane had changed the way I looked at spinning. I don’t spin much and usually just to zone out and get away from the world. It was when I was teaching high school and needed to get way away from the world that I took it up. Have not done much since retiring. Now I know why. I wasn’t creating or learning or having any “what if” moments as I do when I knit. That’s changed. Boy, has that changed.
Don’t ask me what I’m going to do with all this fancy, chunky yarn. Novelty yarns are coming back. I just want to make them and maybe hang them on something—my neck maybe. I want to see what using a purple ply does with a red batt. I want to but little bits of fabric in the wool and see what happens. I want to see how many bits of color I can add to white wool without it being gaudy.
I really want to go to Ann’s farm and watch her shear something.
Check out the websites for these folks and support your own local fiber artists and retailers. They make such joy possible for the rest of us.
Oh, yeah, I taught some knitting classes and everyone seemed to enjoy them. I can’t wait until next year.
I’ve been doing some research about knitting with handspun singles. Even though I’m not a big fan of singles, not plying yarn is an easy way for a spinner to keep the colors pure, much like Mr. Noro does.
This fiber was purchased years and years ago on the then young ebay site. It is 100% wool and was dyed by Ruth Fortune in a colorway she named Fiesta. (Thank goodness for those little tags on a string that stay firmly fastened.) I spun this yarn, probably on my old Ashford Traveler, in a single so that I could control the color. After all the pure color was what attracted me to it. It is worsted spun–and, as always, by the seat of my pants. Details, wpi, ratios interest me NOT AT ALL. Spinning for me is rhythm, touch, meditation—all process.
Spun singles are easy to over spin and if you do that, the yarn will bias or slant your stitches when you knit. (See above) You probably don’t want this. There are finishing processes that can minimize some of this. Or, like me, you can do nothing–but you have to do nothing for a long time. When yarn sits without any tension on it, Mother Nature uses physics to balance it. Slowly, over time, like making diamonds, the twist migrates along the yarn until it is balanced.
The zigzaggy swatch beside the two balls of yarn was my first attempt to knit this yarn umpteen years ago. I’m guessing the bias is still there because the yarn was knit in small bound off pieces. I chose garter swtitch for the swatch because garter balances normal yarn. However, you see the result.
The stockinette swatch shows you the effect of needle sizes. I began knitting this DK weight with a US3. The middle section is a size 5 and the top a 7. I like all three for different purposes. I especially like the energy effect of the size 7 swatch.
Now what to do with this yarn. Color purity directed the spinning, but what if you want to knit it which will mix the colors? How? I hate it when a beautiful skein of hand dye knits up into a blah fabric. I’m thinking slip stitch patterns are helpful here.
Which is more important to you? The stitch pattern or the color? You have to choose one. I chose color. Here’s what I did and what I challenge you to do.
I made a hat.
I started with four stitches cast on to my magic loop. I increased (Kf&b) 8 sts every other row until it reached the largest circumference I wanted–pretty big actually–128 sts. I threw in an occasional K2, sl 1 wyif row and one yo, k2tog row. Most of the energy came from the handspun.
Then I went to the reference books–for me, Barbara Walker. I picked a pattern I’d never knitted before–”Quilted Lattice” in vol. 1. I knit it just to see what it looked like in this hand dye. I like it. Oh, I had to add 4 sts to make the pattern work out but that was easy.
Then, I moved to my new favorite ribbing. It’s a 3X3 rib with slip sts every other row. I’ve used it with handpainted sock yarn, so I’m now trying it in a DK weight. The hat was knit on a size 7 and then I changed to the 5 for the ribbing. I’m trying to figure out a way to trim the edge before binding off, so it is still on the needles.
So, I feel good. (Actually I have a cold) Here’s what I learned.
1–I’ve knit and learned from my own handspun, so I’ve used stash.
2–I’ve learned a new stitch pattern.
3–I’ve demonstrated a blind faith that some day, Charlotte, NC, will again be dry and cool and hat weather.
Do this!!! I dare you. It’s fun–even if it doesn’t work out well, you’ll learn. If you hat turns out ugly, give it to someone you don’t like very much and continually ask if they are enjoying it. I am so mean sometimes.
Yesterday some of my spinning friends came over to twist some fiber together. KnitDiva brought a video about spinning funky kinds of yarn. This is supposed to be wool yarn with cocoons of alpaca. I hope I’ll get better.
Joni brought bags of alpaca and generously gifted one on me. This is my first alpaca fleece and I’m in heaven.She also brought her drum carder and Cat taught us both how to use it. It’s faster than cards, but not as satisfying, not as close to the land. I may change my mind about that. It’s a lot of fleece. But the fibers slide so easily along each other, carding shouldn’t be hard. I’m spinning with a short draw and hope to get a nice DK 2 ply.
I started spinning earlier that day to try the technique Jay had given me this summer for producing thicker, uneven yarn. I did what he said—Don’t look at the wheel; just long draw and take up paying almost no attention. Dang. I like what I got and it was really fun. I think this is some Coopworth that I dyed a while back. Only have the one skein. Might make part of a hat or I might just put it in a bowl and look at it.
I haven’t been at my wheel in almost a year, so I’m grateful to my friends for coming over and helping me get back to it. The rhythm is so nourishing to the soul and I still am amazed at what comes off the bobbin.
Watching a room full of wheels was a great mystery to Henry and Jake. They have smelled the fleece and just sit across the room and watch me while I spin. It is one way for some gentle peace. But with friends it’s even better.