I went to my first fiber festival, my first in person fiber festival, in at least ten years. It’s been a long, long ten years and so many priorities came before spinning, knitting and my own fun. I used to love the Florida Fiber Ins in Orlando but everything was above my price range and I felt completely out of place when in attendance. That’s pre-pandemic, pre-kids, pre-Masters degree, pre-CPA. . . Last year, in the depths of my grief and anxiety, I went head first back into crafts and stumbled upon virtual fiber festivals. It may have even been about this time, but I’m not sure which ones I attended via Facebook. What I remember is bidding on Dunn Spunn’s fiber batts in a frenzy, not knowing what was going on. What I learned from that experience is that even though these batts are indeed gorgeous, I don’t like spinning from art batts. Sorry!
I got out of the house early on Saturday morning and drove up to the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival in Berryville, VA. I stopped at Sheetz for coffee and a breakfast burrito and it was yummy. I definitely recommend it, especially if you are hungry as it’s pretty big.
First of all, I got there early so I got to walk around listening to the vendor’s talk and without the crowds. There were definitely a good bit of people in attendance later. I went through my first walk through, once again, not really knowing what was going on. That is a common theme in my life. I can find out more through other people’s reactions and conversations than I can research before hand. Through three walk throughs of the grounds and some strong will power on my part, I left with a grey gotland fleece, two bags of wool and hand plucked angora roving, one black cat knits hank of fingering weight sock yarn, some sweater stitch markers with instructions, 3 stickers and a shawl/hair pin that is currently holding up my bun. I desperately wanted a monster coffee mug but couldn’t fork over the $39 even if it was well deserved for the craftsmanship. I watched spinning on my dream wheel – a Monarch from Spinolution and watched weaving handspun on a barn loom. I was looking for a few more fiber processing tools but didn’t find the right one at the right price. Also, there were tons of carded batts and braided carded fiber, but I didn’t see anything really in the way of combed fibers. I like to spin worsted and I wish there were more of those combed braids available. I love the stained glass merino from spotted circus, which I ordered at some virtual fiber festival last year. I just wish I had spun it using chained ply instead of regular plying. I muddied the colors that way.
I cannot wait for my next fiber festival but I’ll have to take some time as it seems everything keeps going up in price. I still love it!
I am very blessed to have a mother who is willing to spoil me with Christmas presents every year. Here we are, December 26, and I am happily playing. Unfortunately it is nearly bedtime and I have work tomorrow morning bright and early. Despite telling my husband repeatedly that I am not returning and that he will have to get two or even three jobs to support my fiber habit, I will soon be returning my wheel to its corner to get ready for tomorrow. I should have posted earlier- but – I was busy – playing.
Christmas eve I called my mother asking to open my presents early with full knowledge that my new jumbo plying head for my Kromski Sonata. After Skyping present opening, I popped that baby on and plyed two strands of bfl wool and one strand of local brown alpaca together. Not only did it create a huge skein of yarn but it looked gorgeous. The pictures don’t even do it justice. I just want to hold it and hug it and love it forever. I’ve been working on two more bobbins of wool and will have to make at least one more skein if not more to create the sweater jacket I want to knit. It should be ready just in time for next winter. Alpaca is very very warm and I live in southern Florida. I may just turn up the A/C and walk around the house wearing my sweater. If only I didn’t have to pay electric bills.
Last week, my friend and I were hanging out spinning away and talking about ideas. We were talking about knitting and spinning events and retreats. Neither one of us have much money and now we’re both more concerned with Christmas presents but we would love to go and learn at one of these events that take place all over the country. Well, why not have one here? We joked about it and moved on to other topics of conversation.
And I keep thinking. . . why not?
Of course there are some things to consider.
1- I’ve never been to a knitting/spinning/ fiber retreat.
2- I love to knit and spin but am certainly no expert.
3- Southwest Florida doesn’t have a lot of knitting shops in the area and no spinning fiber whatsoever.
4- I do not know how to plan events.
But on the plus side.
1- Naples is a great destination with natural beauty and wonderful weather during the winter.
2- It might be a lot of fun.
Would anyone be interested in this? Does anyone out there have any experience planning these things? Let me know. This is just a thought at this point.
The 2011 Florida Fiber In was last weekend up in Orlando. I’ve been anxiously awaiting this all year and I wound up sick the night before and barely slept. The early morning part of the Fiber In was great. I sat and listened to the lesson on dyeing yarn. She demonstrated how to dye yarn using Kool-Aid and a microwave. It’s too bad my microwave has been broken for over a year now. I may be the only person in Florida without one. I did get a few ideas. I also learned a few other things about spinning. There were a lot of interesting people and many more vendors than last year. There was plenty of wool and alpaca. I just wish there were more fibers like cotton. I found a woman who had an old spinning wheel like I originally bought over two years ago. She only spins cotton and absolutely loves it. If anyone would like to donate cotton for me to spin I would appreciate it! By the end of the day, I was too tired to really enjoy much. I wound up leaving early a little cranky.
In the meantime, I had not unpacked my spinning wheel or even knitted anything in the week after. In fact, I’ve ripped two projects that weren’t coming out correctly and lost my size six harmony needles. I’m suffering from the fiber blues. At least today was spinning group day. I am still not feeling well and was tempted to skip it, but am glad I went. It is great being around others who think like I do. It is so rare, especially down here.
My Ashland Bay Blue Face Leicester Top BFL Undyed Spinning Fiber arrived from Paradise Fibers and I had one goal for this weekend. As I mentioned last week, I’ve been keenly interested in Navajo plying. I sat down Friday night, finished a bobbin of one ply yarn for the above wool. It was so easy to work with. I’m actually having to overtwist it so it doesn’t unravel on me. Then I took it off and started navajo plying. I have a few issues with this technique. 1- Starting it is difficult. I kept loosing it when trying to get it to take on the bobbin. Finally I made a knot onto the starter yarn. 2- I’m getting a lumpy yarn. I think when I’m plying, I’m loosening the fibers and creating bumps. 3-Breaking. As I was plying, it kept breaking. The finished yarn came out unbalanced and different widths but I decided to dye it anyway.
I read this over and over and over. First I soaked the yarn overnight in 1/3 cup of vinegar. Then, I woke up early and put the yarn in the crock pot with 1/2 cup of vinegar and just enough water to cover the yarn. I wish I had put less water in. After a little over an hour, I mixed my dyes with hot water and began covering the yarn. I was really going for a blue and orange yarn with spots of green, but the colors muddled a bit. This is really a clean process though. I had no spills or stains. I added more dye, not liking that the colors were so light. I believe this is why I got the muddled colors. By the end, there was too much water in the crock pot.
I used tongs to pull the yarn out and hung it first on my kitchen faucet over the sink. Once it cooled off, I rinsed it, and hung it outside to dry. I was a little impatient. I didn’t even wait for it to dry 100% before winding it on the homemade nostepinne. Okay, it was a size 15 straight needle. I think I did a great job for the first time using a nostepinne (Knitting needle!)
So below is half of the final product. The colors weren’t what I was trying for, but all in all, I think it worked out very well.
I’ve recently been introduced to knitting podcasts. I never knew there were people out there that took an hour of their time and talked about knitting. I have an i-pod and decided to download some of these. The first few I chose were mostly disappointing. The Knitpicks episode I listened to was informative but slow. I had to stop listening if only for the fact that they were talking about weaving and I cannot afford another hobby. Yes, I was feeling that itch of I want a loom!!! The angel on my shoulder said, “No Tracy, you have enough crafty hobbies. You don’t have time or money for another.” Then the devil on my other shoulder said, “Hehe, I want one. Credit cards are proof God loves you.” Then my boss came in, the i-pod went off and a stack of work was pushed my way.
A second podcast was quite disappointing. The girls were advanced knitters who were complaining about all the people who post patterns on Ravelry using different terms. Then they continued complaining more, interjecting apologies every once in a while in case they offend anyone. I may be biased, but isn’t it a good thing that people can learn and share on this vast resource known as the internet?
A third podcast was filled with talk of expensive yarns that even the devil on that shoulder just shook her head and said no. Sigh.
Finally, I found two thanks to good advice from new knitting/spinning buddy. Stitch It is from the same person with the website The Art of Megan. I learned to spin on my first spindle from her. Of course, she doesn’t know this. I liked listening to her talk about her garden and her house. The second was the The Knit Wits. They were hilarious! They are a married couple who moved to Oregon. I love how they communicate and the fact that the husband interjects his opinion with the crafty, knitting, spinning wife. I relate to both of these two more than the others I’ve listened to so far. I look forward to downloading lots more episodes.
Unfortunately the knit bunny is still not done. Time is precious and in short supply. Every year my Mom and her boyfriend set up at an antique engine show/flea market in Zolfo Springs, Florida. I drive up and visit every year. Usually I walk through the show and flea market looking for odds and ends. Two years earlier I was looking for a spinning wheel and found one on the drive home at an antique store. Unfortunately it was missing quite a few pieces and it never did work. However, it inspired research and knowledge of spinning that I am still gathering.
This year I brought my very own Kromski Sonata spinning wheel. In the beginning, I set it up behind the tables of stuff for sale and people were coming right up to the tables and watching me. I had a man who owned alpacas in North Carolina tell me they spin the fibers all the time and he has fiber for sale as high as $130 an ounce. I also had a mechanical engineer come up to me and just watch analyzing the movements from the treadle on up.
The best part of the experience was when two young children who didn’t speak English came up to me. First they were standing back, fascinated. Some one guided them closer and I pulled out the bunch of wool roving from my bag and had them touch it. Then I tore off small bits of drafted fiber which is looser and easier to spin. Finally I pointed to my handmade niddy noddy with the twisted yarn. I can only hope that some day they’ll remember the day they saw the lady using the spinning wheel and will try their hands at crafts themselves.
My mother gave me a Kromski Sonata spinning wheel for Christmas and it has been keeping me happily busy. After managing to put it together, then reading through the instructions, oiling everything up and then finding my stash of wool I had bought at the Fiber In two years ago, I began my new adventure of spinnning.
Things you should know about spinning wheels and spinning:
1- you have to oil it. My spinning wheel came with oil but I noticed online that people recommend using non additive motor oil as the cheap method. I also read online that the piece of leather on the flyer should be oiled every 15-30 minutes of use.
2- There is pencil roving available that is easier on newbies. It is predrafted so that you only have to draft minimally while becoming comfortable with spinning.
3- You will overtwist the yarn. The best way to slow down the twist while learning is to slow down the treadling. I want to immediately treadle like crazy because it’s what I’ve seen experienced spinners do. Slow down.
4- It is incredibly addicting and relaxing it. I’m enjoying my new spinning wheel and playing with yarn. I’ve already made a ball of yarn out of it and knit a pair of socks.
This weekend was the seventh annual Florida Fiber In which took place in Orlando this year. It began Friday night with knitting, spinning, crocheting and socializing. We arrived Saturday at around eleven am and sadly I got there just after the spindling demo had already begun. I had two main objectives for the weekend.
1- I was determined to learn how to use a spindle. A spindle is generally a long thin cylindrical object that looks similar to a top. It is used to create yarn from fibers such as wool, alpaca, linen or if you are really talented silk. A website that I like to visit is http://www.joyofhandspinning.com/HowToDropspin.shtml
2- Find someone who would let me use their spinning wheel.
Both missions were accomplished. I practiced with the drop spindle. I was warned that it takes a lot of practice before you can create anything resembling yarn. I did enjoy using the spinning wheel, although I couldn’t really control the twist. I hope to be able to practice more at some point in my life, with my own wheel of course. It is not as easy as it looks though.
All in all, it was great to go and hang out with people who like the same things. There were many people, women especially, knitting, crocheting, spinning and spindling. I got to see a lot of different devices, fibers and people. It’s always great to learn new things and to meet new friends.
Today my fiance and I drove three hours north to go visit the Florida Fiber-in up in Sarasota. It is a festival more drawn toward fiber and spinning but knitting/crocheting are included. It was located at the Hilton Garden Suites off of Tamiami Trail North. I peaked down the long hallway first, and watched the two women outside spinning. There was a standing wheel and an old antique Norwegian spinning wheel, both for sale for $400 each. I had a long conversation with one of the women. I had made the mistake of buying an old antique spinning wheel without any idea of what I was doing. For those of you who know what I am talking about, I am missing the lazy kate/bobbin, the footman (goes from the wheel to the treadle, the mother of all (part that holds up the lazy kate/bobbin) is loose, and there are assorted other minor problems. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about- I didn’t either until I started researching my purchase. I wish I had known what I was doing.
Back to the Florida Fiber In.
It was a great place, with lots of spinning wheels. I wish I had sat down and practiced- but my nerves were a bit rattled and I am ultra-shy! I bought some handspun from sunshine knit designs and may try to spin on my drop spindle. I wish there was more yarn and knitting. My lovely fiance wanted to leave so we were out the door entirely too soon.
I have decided that I have to have a spinning wheel. However, I have learned my lesson in that I’m not touching an antique (unless someone can fix mine!!!). Instead, I want an Ashford Travelor. Now is not the time to buy it, but I’m going to start setting aside money for it. I have a ton of projects in progress. I am almost finished with my wedding scarf and can’t wait to show it off! http://www.floridafiberin.org