Monday, October 29, 2007

Shenandoah Fiber Festival

I spent the weekend participating in the second Shenandoah Fiber Festival in Berryville, Virginia. The first festival was held in late May 2006, and I brought an antique "barn loom", set it up and wove on it. I also had a display of antique textiles and did a little spinning on the great wheel.

This year I decided to focus on spinning and to demonstrate point spinning on various types of hand spindles and on the great wheel. When I arrived Friday afternoon to set up my display, I discovered that the festival was giving me a double space, so I went home and filled the van a second time with more fiber!

I used one table for a Touch Me fiber display, and also set up a displays of cotton, alpaca and wool spinning. I brought a variety of roving for sale, some sheepy puppets and some Peace Fleece knitting needles.

I read in the local paper a few years ago that Mr. John Friant was growing cotton in a community garden out on the triangle where the bypass meets Route 7 in Berryville, and I contacted Mr. Friant to ask if he had any plans for the cotton from these plants. He was surprised to hear that spinners would be interested and excited to have his cotton for hand spinning, and offered me the whole crop from his 4 plants.

Mr. Friant also plucked much of the cotton from the bolls and pulled seed out of much of the crop, and when I came to pick up the cotton, he told me how time consuming it was to remove the seeds. He declared that there must be a gin somewhere in Virginia where you could obtain cotton with the seeds already removed.

And while it took over a year, he did find a gin and he called me up this summer to say that he had ten pounds of ginned cotton for me! I took special care to focus on cotton spinning in my exhibit, and Mr. Friant came out to the festival to see me spin his cotton. He later went out to the garden and pulled up two of the cotton plants and brought them back to the festival to add to the display. I'm sorry I didn't get photos of these - they were 6 feet tall standing on their roots, and had flower buds, flowers, immature seed pods and mature, burst bolls of cotton all on the same plant.

I had a great time spinning cotton on the Miner's head and wool pencil roving on the bat head on the great wheel, spinning on hand spindles and meeting and talking with folks all weekend. It was also nice to see the festival grow - there were more than twice as many vendors this year.

I also came away from the festival with a small fleece - a four pound first clip from a romney/border leicester lamb from the Dell Acres Farm in Edinburg, Virginia. My plan is to spin it up into a fine yarn and knit a faroe style shawl!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Western Massachusetts

was simply beautiful this past weekend.

We went up to visit two of our girls at Smith, and stayed at the historic Charlemont Inn about 45 minutes away. It made for some beautiful backroad drives to and fro.

We also discovered the Good Time Stove Company, with wonderful old woodstoves and cook stoves. It was showroom, museum and sculpture garden - a wonderful place to visit.

We heat our hundred year old home with a Vermont Castings Vigilant and our kitchen range is an old Magic Chef, so we were right at home. Our range looks a little like this one, only not so clean:

We took a lot of photos in the sculpture garden. There were several fire pits, including one in the belly of a stone and iron dragon, designed so the smoke would come out the dragon's mouth. It was awesome.
Knitting content! I downloaded the Maine Morning Mitts pattern from Knitters Review before I left town, grabbed two balls of Kureyon and whipped up two pairs over the weekend, one for Miss Ruby and one for Miss Lily. (Hannah is waiting for some Tiger mitts for her bday in December...)
When I first saw that Clara Parks was writing a book about knitting yarn, I didn't think that it would be a book I needed to own. But I was first in line to borrow it when our local library got a copy and I have to say that I was wrong. The Knitter's Book of Yarn is a beautiful book with some lovely patterns and it is the best resource book about yarn that there is. Bravo, Clara! Well done!

And a parting autumn shot:

Happy Anniversary!

We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last week by climbing Old Rag mountain. We went to Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, Virginia and spent a night at their Upper Cabin, where we had gone for our honeymoon. We built a fire in the cabin fireplace and sat reading and knitting into the calm evening.

The next morning we had a hearty breakfast (the only kind they serve at Graves)and then set out for the Berry Hollow trailhead to climb Old Rag. From this access point, the trail begins with a fire road and runs about a mile to the first shelter. Our corgis, Rupert and Wiley are about 11 years old, and we weren't sure if they would be able to hike all the way to the top of the mountain, but they did famously. Corgis are very loyal and brave, and they followed us up the fire road, and then up the trail without any hesitation until we reached some rocky sections that were hard for short legs to climb.

So Peter gave them a little help:

We all made it to the second shelter, and then headed up for the last section of trail. The summit of Old Rag is all huge rocks, with one of the best views of the Shenandoah Park. We were all happy to make it to the top, and found a nook to toast our success and eat our lunch. The corgis got hardboiled eggs and a little PB&J.

Would you hike the trail with this man? I would, and did, and will again!
But then, I'd walk 3 miles uphill all the way for a sup of good single malt!

We took it easy on the trail going down, and I credit our dog pace with leaving me only mildly sore in my calves for the next few days. It was a truly beautiful day, and a wonderful way to celebrate.

We ended the day back at Graves for a well earned dinner of fried catfish and country ham, and then drove home.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Canadian Cruise

As promised, a post about our summer adventure.

My Mom turned 80 in August (balloons, applause). I was trying to think of a special way to celebrate when I realized that I could not count the number of times she had said to me that she would like to go on a cruise someday. At 80, someday really ought to be now, so I organized my sisters and we settled on a 5 day cruise out of New York city, stopping in Saint John, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Here is the really big ship, docked at Saint John:

My Mom & I live in Virginia, but my sisters are in Philadelphia, Vermont and Kansas. I drove my Mom up to sister Sally's in Philadelphia the night before our cruise date, and while we were repacking the car for the trip to New York, sister Annie called from the Burlington airport to say that her plane had been delayed twice and finally cancelled! It was too late for her to drive to New York, and after some brain storming and hair pulling, we determined that she would have to join us at the first port of call.

So she took a bus to Montreal the next morning and flew to Saint John via Halifax. We were among the first people off the boat at Saint John, looking for Annie. It felt like the trip wasn't really right until we were all together.Here are my three sisters, in typical attitude:
We had a happy reunion on the ship and then headed into Saint John for an explore. Mom has a walker, and we were able to borrow a wheelchair at the tourist center. Saint John has an indoor walkway that goes from near the docks up to the City Market, and we made our way through this series of corridors elevators up to the old market.
There were vegetable and meat stalls, touristy gift shops, and a yarn stall! I picked up a ball of Trekking Natura and some tiny short double points for glove fingers. We had lunch and headed back down the walkways and then back to the ship.

We went up on deck to watch as the ship left the docks and there was a bagpiper in full traditional highland dress piping us out to sea. I could hear him playing for some time and I didn't see him leave his post until we were nearly out of sight. Can you see the piper in front of the pavilion?

I have been buying yarn from Fleece Artist for a year or two, and I had emailed Kathryn Thomas to ask if we could come and visit her dye studio while we were in Halifax. She generously offered to meet us and drive us out to her place in Dartmouth. It was wonderful to meet someone from Nova Scotia and get away from the touristy bits; I really enjoyed meeting Kathryn and talking with her.

And see how lovely Fleece Artist HQ is:
It's very colorful inside, as well - there is no storefront, and as all the yarns are dyed to order there is not a lot of stock on hand, but we feasted our eyes in this room!

That's Kathryn in the green shirt.

One more swoon of color?

The Fleece Artist doggie has a wide choice of comfy fleecy beds!

I had to get a picture of this unusual sign:

Kathryn drove us back into Halifax where we collected the non-knitters in our party and then she took us to lunch. There is a pier walk that goes from the dock to the Maritime Museum about a mile away, with stalls and outdoor performance spaces all along the way. There was a Buskers Festival going on and we got to see several performances and do a bit of shopping as we made our way back to the ship.

It had been very foggy when we arrived in the morning, but by midday it was just lovely. Then the fog started to creep back in - you can see it low on the water here:
We got caught in a sudden downpour about halfway back to the ship and were wetter than fish spit by the time we got to the pier, but we had a hilarious time pushing our Mom with her seated on her walker and trying to duck in and out of shelters along the way.

The fog was remarkably thick by the time we sailed; here is our last view of Halifax:

The remaining sailing time was full of fancy food (as pictured below)and a brief excursion into group karaoke - the latter alas, was not recorded for posterity.

And I would be remiss if I did not include some towel animals. Every night when we returned to our cabins, there was a different towel animal on the beds. It's sort of like origami with towels. Only different. Twisted.

We docked in New York on the final morning and went our separate ways home. Here, at last, is a photo of my Mom. She vetoed all the rest!