Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Fibery Year, Part 2

I am clearly still working on fitting a weekly blog post into my schedule!  I had all the photos loaded on Thursday morning but then work was a steady blur, so the lunch hour I had planned to spend writing the post did not take place.  As with most things in life, I will continue to do the best I can!

Tartan Blankets

Today, I am revisiting a few more of my fiber adventures from 2014, starting with a Tartan Blanket class at The Mannings Handweaving School and Supply Center in East Berlin, PA.  If you are a weaver living within a few hours of The Mannings you have probably heard of the school and shop and possibly been there to browse and purchase and/or take a class.  Weavers and knitters come from farther afield once they have been there - it's a great shop with a wonderful array of yarn and tools, patterns and books but also one of the best weaving schools in the country.

Tom Knisely has been working at the school since 1977; he began working at The Mannings as a teenager and served his apprenticeship under Mr. Manning.  I like to tell my weaving students about the mentors and teachers who have contributed to my journey as a weaver and a weaving teacher.  The illustrious list of names and stories always begins with Norman Kennedy but it also includes Tom Knicely.  I recommend that any weaver who can should take a class from Tom - he is extremely knowledgeable, kind and patient but also explains techniques in the clearest possible language.  It is little wonder that he was Handwoven Magazine's Weaving Teacher of the Year in 2011.

I have had the pleasure of taking a number of classes from Tom, mostly as weekend guild retreats.  I have taught a number of classes for The Mannings, too - most of my different Tartan classes and my Tweeds & District Checks class, too.  In May 2014 we offered my Tartan Blanket class for the first time here and the class went forward with a full compliment of 12 students.

Each of the students chose the tartan pattern for their blanket; some were family tartans and some were chosen for color or simplicity.  At least three were recolored to suit the weaver.  The warps were all Jaggerspun Maine Line 2/8 set at 12 epi - it is a challenge to weave a balanced cloth at this open set but after wet finishing the wool really blooms!  We basted three or four blankets together in a long loop, wetted them thoroughly and held a wool waulking at the end of class.  I'm really sorry that I don't have any photos of the waulking - it was a rollicking good time and the end results were lovely.

Shameless Commerce - I sell Jaggerspun yarns at an attractive price!  I provide yarn for many of my classes so I have a lot of colors in stock in the Maine Line 2/8 and the Superfine Merino 2/18, but I can order any yarns that are not in stock.  I also provide wind offs for tartan weaving kits as well as prepared tartan drafts.  If you are interested, leave your email and "Jaggerspun Prices" in a comment for this post and I will send you my price list.  To protect your privacy and your in-box, I will not publish comments that contain an email address.

50+ Breed Spinning Study

Any long time readers of my blog have probably read some posts about my Breed Study in previous years.  I have devoted the three weeks of the Tour de Fleece spinning event to this study since 2012.  It began with a kit from Jackie Bland, who gave a presentation at a Waterford Weavers Guild meeting many years ago.  At that meeting I bought a kit which contained about an ounce of raw fleece from more than 40 different sheep breeds.  It also included a binder with a worksheet for each sample including the source of that fleece and one or more pages of general information about the breed.

This was long before the wonderful Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius was published, not to mention Beth Smith's The Spinner's Book of Fleece.  There were a few resources for spinners interested in breed study, including In Sheep's Clothing by Nola and Jane Fournier (now happily back in print) but the fleece study notebook and all those little packets of fleece were a real treasure trove!  But life intervened, I was raising three children and working part time and many years slipped by. 

And then came the Tour de Fleece!  I think this event began in 2006 and moved to Ravelry in 2008.  It is an opportunity for spinners to challenge themselves in their handspinning during the annual Tour de France bicycle race.  Participants can join a team or teams and compete for prizes or just share their daily progress.  I fielded a team beginning in 2011 through my yarn business, Peace Weavers in cooperation with Solitude Wool; one of the team members christened our team Team Peace & Solitude.

For the past three years I have worked on my breed study during the Tour de Fleece.  I made a spreadsheet of all the breeds to keep track of weights and measures and how each sample was prepared and spun.  I washed all the samples in the original Fleece Study kit the first year.  I won a prize that first year from Spirit Trail Fiberworks which added to my breed list and let's just say there has been a little online shopping... it's amazing what you can find on the internet!  My current count is 39 breeds spun out of 69 breed samples.  I need to catch up a little before any new acquisitions.

In July 2014, I focused on long wool breeds and combing, working my way through ten breed samples.  I prepared and spun Hebridean, Icelandic, English Jacob, Karakul, English Leicester Longwool, Lincoln Longwool, Navajo-Churro, and Romanov, as well as two non-longwool breeds: Southdown and Arapawa.  Some of these were, of course, more satisfying to work with than others but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the Karakul and the Navajo-Churro in particular.  There is something magical about these dual coated fleeces, the yarn is surprisingly springy and somehow greater than the sum of it's parts. 

So, all you spinners out there who are happily addicted to ultra soft wools - give yourself a challenge this year to spin something really different!  You may find some new breeds to love!

 This is a photo of my favorite new fiber tool - the Nina Soft Spin Dryer - a spin dryer that removes most of the water from fleece and wool items or whatever you place in the drum.  It beats all heck out of the roll-it-in-a-towel-and-stomp-on-it method, the washed fleece dries very quickly after a quick spin in the Nina!   It is also wonderful for dyeing as it reduces the amount of rinsing needed if you give your yarn or fiber a spin before rinsing. 

At the end of the 2014 Tour de Fleece, I won a prize from Team 4 The Sheep! - a team hosted by Spirit Trail Fiberworks and The Spinning Loft - I won three packets of fleece from The Spinning Loft!  And while I was choosing I added a few more samples to my cart and added a few European breeds to my study collection: Gra Trondersau, Norsk Spelssau, Ouessant, and two Americans - Polypay and Santa Cruz.  The list keeps growing!

More Spinning!

I got to take a two day class with Deb Robson at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in May 2014 - her 3 C's and 3 L's class.  Deb is a terrific, enthusiastic teacher with a wealth of knowledge about sheep and spinning and I felt very fortunate to be able to participate in the class.  I took her Spinning Rare Breed Wools class at MS&W in May 2013 and was delighted to have a second opportunity.  If you get a chance to attend one of Deb's class, sign up right away!  You will be amply rewarded.  Meanwhile, you can read her excellent blog, The Independent Stitch.

 And in August 2014, I participated in SpinQuest 2014 as a vendor.  This is a spinning event that is held in Front Royal, VA in August each year and features teaching demos, creative exercises and juried vendors.  It's a small event for up to 45 participants and the vendor fee is to provide 45 small bags of spinning fiber that fit in with the theme for the event.  Vendors also receive a fiber goody bag and are invited to join in with the exercises and challenges.

The theme for 2014 was Au Naturelle - Focus on Natural Fleece, and I got all the processed fleeces out of my attic and set about weighing out small samples for the participants goody bags and then larger packets of roving for sale.

My relationship with my attic and other hidden stores of treasure is best defined as If I Can't See It, It Doesn't Exist.  Which is my excuse for continuing to acquire exciting and inspiring fleece, yarn, fabric, etc.  My roving for sale includes Coopworth, Border Leicester, Merino, Ramboiullet and Ramboiullet crosses, Shetland some other really nice spinners flock crosses as well as one or two mystery fleeces.  I have bagged these up in 6-8 ounce bags and labeled them as Private Stock - Hand Selected Fleeces for Handspinners and I sell them for $10 each.  The weight is marked on the bag and depends on the cost of the original fleece.  I will have plenty of these at my Peace Weavers booth at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival this year.

See you next week with more tartan weaving!

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