Hand Spun

Hand Spun
Campfire Hat

Friday, August 26, 2011

Spinning at the Fair

Spinning in the Home Arts Division area
This year at the fair I had the huge privilege of demonstrating spinning in the Home Art Division (12). I've only spun in public once before at the folk life fair at Trailing of the Sheep last fall so it made me a little nervous thinking about doing it at the fair. But once I got set up and started spinning, as always, I become calm and focused and started enjoying myself. I was surprised at how many people stopped and had questions. Most of the men were curious about the mechanics of the wheel. Most of the kids wanted to know how I turned the fluffly stuff into "string" and I had at least 5 other people ask where they could get lessons. I referred them to my teacher of course, Cleo Gallinger at the Sheep Shed in Nampa,ID. I spun for 5 hours last Sunday and managed to fill a bobbin with 4oz. of wool and start plying.  I had some folks come back several times to check my progress because they wanted to see what plying looked like.
I had a really enjoyable afternoon spinning away, trying to answer questions intelligently and referring people who wanted to know more to viable resources. On the advice of my mentor Carol Dunn, I took a few skeins of my yarn so that people could touch them. Almost everything at the fair has the "Please Do Not Touch" label on it. A lot of people were interested in touching and feeling homespun yarn. I took some of my angora/wool yarn and a small tote of the blue angora I had drum carded.
The yarn I took for "hands-on" purposes  
Blue carded angora for touching

The kids who stopped by LOVED feeling the angora and everyone said it felt like cotton candy. If I'd known then what I know now, I would have taken some home made drop spindles and a little wool and given some of them the chance to spin on their own. Many people seemed daunted by the cost of a spinning wheel but were interested when I mentioned that you don't have to own a wheel to spin. If I get the chance to demonstrate spinning in public again, I'll have some quality home made drop spindles and a big hank of wool roving with me like in the picture below.
The good quality drop spindle my husband made for me with some fiber samples spun onto it

Meanwhile, I'm still basking in the delight of seeing so many people interested in this fiber art and willing to ask questions and possibly take the next step and learn spinning for themselves.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Baby Parrots Learn Their Names From Their Parents

Truly this is amazing! More proof that parrots are intelligent creatures! Check this out and be sure the watch the video.

Baby Parrots Learn Their Names From Their Parents

Friday, August 19, 2011

Blue Ribbon Yarn

I got brave. After spinning for a year I decided to do something to "nudge" my spinning and I entered 4 skeins of yarn into our fair.  I bought bamboo fiber and camel/silk fiber to spin specifically to fill two of the 4 categories I entered. I already had skeins spun for the other two categories. Submissions were due on Tuesday, judging was Wednesday, and today the fair opened. My husband took me and we made a bee line for the home arts division in the Expo building to see how the yarn did. And in no particular order....

Bamboo yarn
The purple and pink yarn top center is my bamboo entry for the plant fiber class in the colorway "Be Mine". It was the oddest fiber I think I've spun to date and I'm not really sure I'd do it again. I have no plans for this stuff so I'll attempt to sell it more than likely unless I put it in my cedar chest. Mom would have me stash it in the cedar chest I bet. The yarn itself turned out shiny and slick and lovely but it doesn't behave at all like an animal fiber would. Still - it turned out pretty enough for a blue ribbon. :)

Wool/silk blend
Next up is the blended fiber yarn category. I entered this merino wool/silk blend in the colorway "MacKenzie"  and it won a blue ribbon. I bought the fiber from The Fiber Addict and this is just a small portion of what I got from 8 oz of fiber. It will be a prayer shawl someday I think. :) 

Sheep wool yarn
In the back center of this picture is a dark blue yarn in the colorway "Peacock" that I spun from 100% wool fiber I bought from The Fiber Addict. It placed in first place (yay!) and is actually a smaller portion of a much larger skein I produced and have already started knitting from. This yarn is making a prayer shawl for a friend of mine at work.

"Other" yarn = camel/silk
Last but not least, I entered a skein of silk/baby camel down that I spun after buying the fiber online some time back. This yarn was going to be my masterpiece of TourDeFleece. I didn't actually spin in during TdF though because I ran out of time. This yarn was my last project completed. I loving call it "Saucy Wench" yarn. The fiber was lovely to look at, soft as buttercream to the touch, BUT IMPOSSIBLE TO CONTROL! Just like a saucy wench. lol! I really had a hard time spinning this fiber into an even, uniform single. Plying it was a challenge as well because plying a thinner section of single to a thicker section of single creates non-uniform 2-ply yarn. I had to trick this fiber over and over again to become what it finally is. I still actually have fiber left over that I may not look at again for at least another year! But Saucy Wench placed second which completely shocked me. I wasn't sure the judges would appreciate the difficulties involved spinning this fiber. Apparently either they completely understood or I completely underestimated the way the final product looks. I'm still not happy with it.

Now I will take credit for spinning these yarns. But I got feedback on which of my yarns to enter before making my final decisions. Carol Dunn looked and touched and advised and Nancy McDaniel did the same. And thanks to the advice I received from them, I will be bringing home 3 blue ribbons and one red ribbon from the fair. What I'm really interested in seeing are the judges' comments for the yarn. On every project I've entered I've always been able to come away with useful suggestions from what the judges say or even don't say on the judging cards. 
Aside from bragging rights (which I'm really trying NOT to exercise!) what will I come away with from this experience? Well first I'm a more confident spinner. While I know I have a LONG way to go and a lot more to learn, I feel better about my spinning after this and I think I will take on bigger challenges with more confidence in future spinning ventures. Tonight Jeff, the conspiracy theorist and "out there" kind of nut, asked me if I'd spin Yeti fur or chupacabra fur. I said yes to the first, especially if it's a baby Yeti and no to the second due to short staple length. LOL! See? I'm braver already. I'm now willing to spin mythological creature fur!
Secondly, I'm going to put more of my skeins in more competitions. I think I can take constructive criticism now without it discouraging me too much. Last year at Trailing of The Sheep I didn't enter the skein competition. This year I think I will. I won't enter the SAME skeins of course, but I'm thinking already about what kinds of yarn I can spin up for TOTS. I may introduce strands of glitter into some of my yarn to start. It's a small start, but it's something right?
Overall, I'm tickled pink over the judges' decisions, my improving skills as a spinner, and that I have people like Carol and Nancy to turn to for advice on which skeins to submit, how to submit them appropriately, etc. Without their help, things could have turned out differently. I had no idea to only submit with 3 ties and to make the ties the same color as the skeins. If not for Nancy and Carol, my skeins would have shown up with white kite string ties in four places and not all of them figure 8's. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but it is really in competition.
Another really cool thing is that when I went to admire the llamas and alpacas on display at the fair, I met breeders and owners who shear those lovely animals, have bags of fiber they don't know what to do with, and are willing to talk with me about taking some of that lovely fiber off their hands! I networked a little! Again - doesn't sound like much, but it really is - for me anyway.
Here's a picture of one of the alpaca crias.
Isn't he/she adorable??? I just LOVE alpacas!

Another side note. I didn't know we had a beekeepers' club in the valley! Yay!! I will be in touch with these folks about honey and beeswax for my soap in the near future. The fair has been very good to me this year I'd say. Now I have a whole week's worth of vacation events to blog about but that's going to have to wait for another day. It's late, I'm tired, fighting yet ANOTHER migraine, and I have church in the morning. But I wanted to share this while I'm still excited about it and it's all still fresh and new for me. Hope everyone has a great weekend!!!