Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Norman Kennedy spinning clinic!

Hand Spinning Clinic with Norman Kennedy
January 28 & 29, 2012 - Round Hill, Virginia

A rare opportunity to study with Norman Kennedy, Master Weaver & Spinner! Mr. Kennedy was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship in 2003 for his work in preserving and teaching the techniques and knowledge of traditional textile production from his native Scotland.

The focus for this class will be traditional spinning, on different types of hand spindles, on flyer wheels and on the great wheel. Tuning your wheel for optimum performance, sewing new drive bands, fiber preparation – bring your questions and concerns! Norman is particularly knowledgeable in the spinning traditions of Scotland and around the world, and will share much of the folklore and stories that he has accumulated in his travels and studies.

Participants at any level are welcome. Bring spindles, low wheel & great wheel
A small fiber sampler will be provided for use in class

The fee for the class is $150. There will be a modest supply fee.
To register, mail a $75 deposit payable to Peace Weavers
Deposits will be nonrefundable except in the event of cancellation

Peace Weavers - Melissa Weaver Dunning – weaverdun@aol.com
151 Concert Lane – Berryville, Virginia 22611 - 540 955-3616

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall is coming on us quickly now, the massive oak tree behind our house is starting to drop a few colorful clusters of leaves and the maples are just starting to flame. I love autumn, for the cooling temperatures, the changing colors and the crisp smell in the air. Fresh apples, pumpkins, chrysanthemums, our wedding anniversary, my birthday, Thanksgiving.

The chimney sweep has come & gotten our chimney ready for the heating season and we have laid in a supply of firewood - we have two woodpiles this year, one of mostly oak,

and one of hickory! There is such a sense of comfort in having the entire winter's wood supply ready & stacked.

I seem to be having a love affair with Rambouillet this fall - I have bought three different Rambouillet cross fleeces in the last two weeks. My only defense is that they were irresistible! I picked up two at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival in lovely mixed greys and a dark grey and then a third beautiful moorit brown fleece at the Fall Fiber Festival. These are all from the same farm in Luray, Virginia.

I washed a large handful of the brown and picked it - it weighed in at 50 grams when dry. I finally got to card most of it yesterday, while demonstrating at the Waterford Fair and then last night at home while watching a movie. This fleece is very springy and cards into a dense, soft rolag. I can't wait to spin some and see the yarn it's going to make! I am thinking 3 ply for a cardigan.

My Handpaint Magic Spinning class at the Fall Fiber Festival went very well - there were ten students and they spun and plyed all day, learning to use a nostepinne, make an N-ply 3 ply yarn and lots of different ways to work with painted rovings to get the yarn you want.

Next in my fall schedule will be our trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I will be teaching my 8/2 Towels class - a combination of the Structures and Color & Weave classes, while Peter strolls the beach. We celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary on Sunday and will stay an extra day or two to enjoy the beach in autumn.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fall Fiber Classes & Festivals

I love to read about everyone's adventures at various fiber classes and festivals as an armchair traveler, while at the same time knowing that I have my own rounds of interesting and fun places. My fall schedule is even busier than usual!

I started my autumn adventures by teaching a weaving class at the Campbell Folk School - 18th Century Household Textiles. My invaluable assistant Lucy Best was on hand to help with the ten students and we had a very busy week.

This class covers 6 different historic textiles: napery, coverlets, carpets, blankets, towels and lindsey woolsey. That is a lot of different warps for one short week, but the students soldiered through and wove some beautiful samples!

Then I taught two days of spinning classes at our local Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival: Traditional Wool Preparation, Point Spinning on spindle and great wheel and Handpaint Magic - spinning with handpainted rovings. I love teaching spinning classes and it was a real pleasure to work with small groups after the busy weaving class!

I also got to help Sue Bundy and the Loudoun Needleworkers gals with the jurying of the fleece sale for SVFF on Friday. I love wool from the sheep to the yarn, and it was delightful to roll out fleece after fleece, look them over and comment on each one.

And of course I fell in love with one or two... namely a Rambouillet/Finn/Corriedale and a Rambouillet/Corriedale/Border Leicester, both from Patchwork Pastures Farm in Luray Virginia. They were both large fleeces and I split them with a friend and also sold a fleece I had purchased and had processed from last year, so my total fleece inventory somehow remains stable!

I did enhance my spinning tools collection rather significantly at SVFF - I bought two beautiful spindles from The Spanish Peacock along with two nostepinnes.

Then on Sunday I heard there was a used Kromski Polonaise for sale. This turned out to be a display model from Michelle Reilly of Wool N' Quilts, an old fiber friend. Very little deliberation was required - I've been lusting after this wheel since I spun on one for several days last January. Isn't she a beauty?

And a few lovely handpainted braids from Creatively Dyed Yarns - I am such a sucker for good color. I'd like to spin the pair of Merino/Silk/Cashmere at the bottom as a fractal for a large scarf or shawl.

So - next comes a day of teaching my Handpaint Magic Spinning class at the Fall Fiber Festival Sunday 10/2, an afternoon wool waulking for the Waterford Weavers at the Waterford Fair 10/9 and then I head down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to teach a weaving class for the Outer Banks Guild. As this falls on our wedding anniversary weekend, my husband will come along and we'll stay for an extra day or two and enjoy the beach in off season.

Then I get two free weekends - whew! - before I fly to Cleveland to teach Acadian Weaving for the Medina Guild, and I will finish off the year with a local weekend knitting class - Modular Knitting - for the Blue Ridge Spinners & Weavers Guild.

I added my teaching schedule in a sidebar a few months ago and I will try to keep this updated. When possible, there is a link for the guild or school. Most of these classes are open to non-members or the general public as well as guild members, so feel free to contact the organization or leave a comment if you are interested in a particular class!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Juggle faster!

I didn't exactly drop any balls last week, but I definitely had too many in the air at once last week. Just as soon as the Tour de Fleece was over, I had one full day at work and then a four day rug weaving class with Jason Collingwood, during which I attempted to work a few hours in my office every day. Which made for a rather stressful week - but we all got through. Bills were paid, performers were paid, and while I didn't get much actual weaving done, I was able to attend most of the lecture time for the class and I certainly learned a lot.

Above is the one photo I got in class - my 4 colors at once section. I did get to weave a little with the shaft switching technique which Jason & his father Peter Collingwood are well known for, and now I understand what all the fuss is about. This simple device can open up a whole world of design on a fairly simple loom. Pretty cool - it would work better with my Mighty Wolf loom because it has a castle above the shafts, so I may have to design a rug to weave on that loom sometime.

I did finish weaving the samples for my weaving exchange, and here is a quick view of the treadling variations possible in summer & winter weave.

This is a lovely old draft. I would like to thread this up again sometime soon for some kitchen towels. Wouldn't that be nice?

And I have been doing a little spinning - I carded up my Cormo sample at the Middleburg concert last Saturday and started spinning it on my Bosworth Moosie spindle. It's working up very nicely, spinning to an even, fine thread. It's interesting how different this fine wool is compared to the CVM that I spun a few weeks ago - the CVM has a lot of crimp and is very springy, stretching to 150% of it's length, whereas the Cormo is very fine and soft but has far less crimp.

It will be interesting to see what the final yardage will be as compared to the CVM. I'm afraid I overplyed my CVM, so I will go back and let a little of the twist out. I wanted to finish it up on the last night of the Tour de Fleece and I generally find that I don't do my best work when plying late at night. But it's only twist, and it can be undone!

I will be singing for some of our Bluemont concerts this weekend with the Flaming Shillelaghs - Jesse Winch, Joe DeZarn and Tina Eck. I'm really looking forward to the concerts and spending time with these fine musicians and good friends.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tour de Fleece comes to an end

as all good things do.

I feel like I spun very little yardage for the Tour this year, but I accomplished a great deal for the little time I had available! I washed 4.5 pounds of raw wool in 51 different breeds. I carded, spun and plied a total of 1,488 yards in 8 breeds: Brecknock Hill, California Red, CVM, Cheviot, North Country Cheviot, Clun Forest, Columbia and Coopworth. A little more than half of that was spindle spun - 810 yards.

I have Corriedale and Cotswold carded and ready to be spun, and Cormo picked and ready to card on fine hand cards.

And all the rest is washed and bagged and waiting to be prepared for spinning. I made a new set of sandwich sized zipper bags with new labels, so that I could store the finished skein and clean lock in a clean bag. I had been using the bags the raw fleece came in, but some are those are pretty greasy.

So I have the fleece samples organized like this - each washed fleece is in a half gallon zipper bag along with a small bag with the name of the breed. When I pick the fiber it goes back in the big bag, same when it is carded. Once it is spun and becomes a skein, it goes in the small labeled bag. And I'm trying to remember to save out a clean lock to store with the skein. I guess the next organizing task should be to go through and replace all the small greasy bags with these new clean ones and go ahead and pull a clean lock at the same time. Then I won't be relying on my memory!

Now that the tour is over, I need to do some house cleaning and have a movie/ironing marathon. But I would like to keep working on the Fleece Study. I think I will set a goal for myself of spinning up at least one skein a week and see how that goes. I'll keep you posted! I will also post in a little more detail about the breeds I have already spun.

I did finish weaving up my summer & winter samples - more details and photos later this week. The Linked Birdseye towels are still waiting to be rethreaded, but I also beamed & threaded a rug warp to take to the Jason Collingwood class I'm taking this week. Somehow, I'm going to go to class and spend some time at work for the next 4 days. For some reason the proximity of class to work makes me believe that this may actually work out - the class is one block from my office!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fleece Study update

I have 5 little skeins to show for all my labors so far - Brecknock Hill, California Red, Cheviot, North Country Cheviot and Columbia. I also have 4 breeds carded & ready to spin, and 39 breeds washed, dry and ready for picking & carding. These all started out as approximately 1 ounce of raw fleece - the dry weight ranges mostly from .5 to .8 ounces.

I got out my drum carder because the hand cards were irritating the arthritis in my wrist and carded up Clun Forest, Coopworth and Corriedale. I'm going to spin up the Coopworth even though I broke off all the tips when I opened it up for carding. The sheep was clearly rather stressed at some point in that year of growing the fleece.

Then I hand carded the CVM on my fine cards - it's very fine, but also very short - the staple is 2" unstretched and 3" stretched.

I was concerned that it would be difficult to spin this short fiber on a suspended spindle, but it is drafting beautifully on my Bosworth Moosie. It's a real pleasure to spin, working up to a lovely, very fine yarn. I can't wait to see the finished 2 ply. It will be perfect for lace.

I had considered trying to spin all the fleece in this study at roughly the same grist, but I decided to spin them at what I think is an optimal size for the particular fleece. This may complicate how they are used in a final project or projects, but it makes me a happy spinner at this stage!

Oh, and I ordered 4 more breeds from The Spinning loft - 4 ounces each of:
Coopworth to replace my broken tips sample
East Friesian, Ile de France & Oxford - to expand my Fiber Study to 51 breeds!
These are washed and drying slowly in the current high humidity.

I did finish threading up the summer & winter - I did a bit of sampling with treadling sequence - there are so many options for this weave structure! This first sample is one of the easiest to treadle, but I will do large samples of some other sequences. This design comes from an old manuscript - isn't it lovely?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A little spinning, a little weaving

OK, I finally got to the wheel last night and spun up the North Country Cheviot - a nice, crisp & even skein of 52 yards. No photo yet, the skein is still drying.

I have two more breeds carded & ready to spin and I think I'll try to do a session with the drum carder on Saturday to get more samples carded. I've had trouble with my right wrist since the winter and I think I could get more carding done comfortably with the drum carder.

I'll choose something for spindle spinning at concerts - I'm working two great concerts this weekend, The Hot Seats Friday night in Winchester and Rumisonko Saturday night in Warrenton - check the Bluemont website for details if you are nearby.

The humid weather has broken again and it was lovely this morning, so I took advantage of the pleasant weather to work in my wee studio. I beamed the warp for summer & winter samples - these are for the Weaving Study Buddies group and the samples are due to be mailed by July 31st. It took me a long time to decide what I would weave and now I can't wait to see how the pattern works up.

Here is the warp all tidied up and ready to start threading the heddles.

I also wove a little more on the linked birdseye towels, enough to cut off & cut up as samples to send my 18th c. Linens class from MAFA, as promised. I discovered some threading errors at the class, and in the quiet of my own studio I had another look and realized that I would have to rethread 3/4 of the warp to correct the errors, so I went ahead and put the lease sticks back in, cut off and tied off the correct section and tied off the rest in inch bunches, ready for threading.

Here you can see the small piece of finished cloth and the loom ready to rethread - the small area of threaded heddles to the right and all the empty heddles waiting in place.

When I find a problem in my work, I've found that it is a good idea to give myself some time to think about possible solutions. It's always good to sleep on a problem, if you have the time and let the ideas percolate. But once I've made a decision about how to proceed, I really like to get the project to a stage where it is ready to make new progress - to rip back my knitting to before the error, or in this case, to cut off the warp and prepare it for re-threading.

Then I feel that the work is ready to begin again when I find I have time to come back. It's so easy to put obstacles between ourselves and our creative work, so when the solution to a problem is clear, it feels good to take action and leave things ready for action.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Carding Away

Here is what I did last night - carded three breeds, North Country Cheviot, California Red and Columbia. It continues to fascinate me to note how different each breed is. I like all three of these, but the Columbia makes the most beautiful rolags! It's so, well, wooly, and they hold together so nicely.

Here is what I have produced so far - I know, it's pitifully small, but keep in mind, I have also washed 48 individual ounces of fleece and picked a dozen, hand carded 5 breeds and spun 2. The mystery grey was already a singles, so I just plyed that one.

I'm hoping to get some wheel time in, which may increase skein production, but I'm working long hours at the office - July is always a very busy month as we are producing 6 or 7 concerts each weekend in July and then there is the little detail of our fiscal year rolling over on July 1st. So many little details go into closing one year and getting started in the new one. But I will persevere!

And just in case you want to know just how much of a Yarn Geek I am, here is a peek at the spreadsheet I'm using to keep track!

My apologies for mostly cross posting from ravelry, but it's almost 9pm and I am still at my office. We have dial up internet service at home, so this is where I do any real internet work and play. Time to head for home!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

MAFA weekend & A Little Progress

First, I want to say that I had a terrific weekend at MAFA! I haven't been to a weaver's conference before, mostly because my work schedule in the summer doesn't usually allow it, but I decided to make it work somehow this year and I'm very glad I did.

My class went very well, I had a great group of weavers who were all excited to learn about linen and we got along just fine. Almost everyone in class wove a sample on each of the ten looms, they followed the Round Robin Rules with grace and good humor and they let me tell them stories and talk about history and books and so on. What fun!

I did not, however, get much spinning done - it was a very busy weekend! I did manage to finish spinning the singles of the Cheviot, and when I got home Sunday night I wound those off the spindle and started plying, also on the Bosworth Moosie spindle. Finished plying Monday night, skeined the Cheviot and put it in a bath.

This morning I double wound and then plyed a mystery light brown wool singles that was on the Moosie when I got it out for the Tour. Hopefully someday I'll find the fiber this came from and maybe identify it.

Before I left for MAFA, I washed the last of the 48 fleece samples - here are the last ten, drying on a bench in our sunroom. I am very pleased to have completed the washing and had a look at each breed. Now on to more picking and carding and spinning!

I am looking with longing at all the beautiful colorful big fat skeins that other people are posting on my ravelry TdF groups (Team Superfleece 2011 and Team Peace & Solitude 2011), while I plug away with my tiny white and sometimes brown skeins - but that being said, I'm really enjoying handling all these different breeds of fleece.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pickin' & Grinnin'

As I mentioned, I am going in about six directions this week and I just couldn't find time to spin last night until about 11:30 at which point I thought I was too tired to spin properly, so I just picked two more ounces of fleece - Clun Forest and Coopworth. I figure anything that keeps my fleece study project moving forward can count as progress.

This morning I was in my wee studio, packing for MAFA and pulling various class notebooks - there is an Open Studio night at MAFA where instructors hang out in their studios and students come by to visit and see what the class is doing but also to meet & talk to the instructor. They said this was a good opportunity to network with guilds about teaching classes, so I will bring my teaching brochures, some John C Campbell Folk School catalogs and I thought I should bring my tartan notebooks, my Acadian weaving samples, etc. to show off some of the classes I offer.

Anyway - long story short - I found a notebook for the Fleece Study! A page for me to fill in details about each fleece sample and at least one page about the breed, lots of information including the source of each fleece sample. I had completely forgotten that this came with the Fleece Study - oh, the age of mental pause! So I have another resource for my study.

This morning I weighed all the washed samples. I don't have grease weight but I felt that the raw fleece was so old that I wanted it to go straight from the baggie to the scour pot! It will be interesting to see how much weight some lose in picking - a few have hunks of second cuts, not many, but at least two. And the tips on the Coopworth were damaged - I broke off every tip as I picked. That sheep must have had a bad patch health-wise that year. But there is still enough left to spin.

I will have to figure out tomorrow how much fleece to bring with me to MAFA - I have a loom to thread up while I'm there, so I won't have much down time during the class even though the students will spend a lot of time weaving.

I wanted to bring a bonus warp for the class and I was quite pleased to settle on a 4 color modern adaptation of a goose-eye twill - Linked Goose Eye from Handwoven magazine's Winning Towels e-book.. I warped it up in 8/2 cotton/linen for kitchen towels on my new Wolf Pup. I had planned to have it ready to weave on but time ran short and then I realized that it would make a great warping demo for my students.

So, here's a question - I'm trying to decide what I should do with all this yarn I'm going to spin from the Fleece Study. I could, of course, make a ring of labeled skeins and use it as a reference and a class resource. But wouldn't it be cool to make something out of all this and have that as the reference? I could knit a scarf with the softer yarns and use purl stitches to mark a number or roman numeral for each breed... I could weave something with the coarse yarns, a kind of check so that there would be an area of the same breed interwoven, like a color gamp.

What do you think would be a good way to use these yarns?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tour de Fleece update

I had a very busy weekend without much time for spinning, but I did manage to card & spin a little each day so far. This is me sitting at a welcome table at the Bluemont concert in Warrenton on Saturday night, carding in between customers. By the way, the band that night was Furnace Mountain and they were wonderful, as always.

I started at the beginning of the alphabet (actually, I skipped Black Welsh Mountain - it feels like steel wool!) with Brecknock Hill, which as I learned from my reading in the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook is a type of Cheviot. I carded this fiber and spun the singles on a Bill Hardy spindle and then plied it on my Bosworth Moosie.

So, on the third day I have my first finished skein - a whopping 50 yards and I haven't weighed it yet, but it should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 ounce. I washed it this morning and I'll weigh it when it's dry.

As it took me three days to card & spin one ounce, I have my doubts about getting through all 48 ounces in the three weeks of the Tour, but I am delighted to have started this project and I hope to see it through no matter how long it takes.

I am still washing fleece - the last pair was Polwarth and Rambouillet. I have used up my two little sample sized packets of Power Scour and now I'm trying out Kookaburra Wool Wash.

I decided to card & spin the Cheviot and North Country Cheviot next, so as to compare the three Cheviots. I started carding the Cheviot yesterday and may get to finish this evening.

This week is going to be very challenging. With the July 4th holiday it's already a short week, and I'm leaving Thursday around 1pm to drive up to Gettysburg PA to teach at the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association conference. So I have to get everything packed for my MAFA class (I'm teaching 18th & 19th c. Linens), get work organized to be away for 4 days (we have 6 concerts this coming weekend) and card & spin!

I'll let you know how that works out.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tour de Fleece Study

Long time, no blog - well, I had a tough winter and when you're depressed, the last thing you want to do is talk about yourself. I think next winter I will get some of those lights that help with seasonal affective disorder.

But now, it is summer. And with summer comes.... Tour de Fleece!

I am so excited about participating again this year that I talked some friends into joining me. We have our own team on Ravelry: Team Peace & Solitude 2011, led by Gretchen from Solitude Wool and myself from Peace Weavers. Anyone is welcome to join us - so far we have friends from two of our local Virginia guilds - the Blue Ridge Spinners & Weavers Guild and the Waterford Weavers Guild and also friends of Solitude Wool. Our team invites participants to set their own goals.

My personal goal this year is to spin through the Fleece Study I bought from Jackie Bland some years ago, while reading the wonderful The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius. I was able to buy a copy and have it signed at Maryland Sheep & Wool, but I haven't had time to do more than glance through it so far. I thought it would be perfect to read about the breed I'm spinning as I work my way through this Fleece Study.

My Fleece Study has one ounce raw fleece samples from 48 different breeds. I made a spreadsheet today to help me keep track of things, and I am busily washing fleece in preparation for the start of the Tour on Saturday, July 2nd.

I was worried that I would have trouble telling the different samples apart and I've been keeping the little labeled bag that each came in with the bowl as it soaks and with the fleece as it dries. I've got two good sized bowls that I'm using to soak the fleece with Unicorn Fibre Power Scour, and so far each pair of breeds has been easy to identify.
Here you have Columbia on the left and Clun Forest on the right.

And this is Coopworth and Cormo.

The next few little bags, waiting for their turn in the bath!

I am washing the fleece in alphabetical order, but I'm thinking about spinning the breeds in related groups, like Down breeds, or possibly spinning the most coarse through to the finest wool. The latter is appealing with the softest, sexiest wool being the carrot to get me through the rough stuff. Black Welsh Mountain feels an awful lot like a Brillo pad to me!