June 28, 2005


Now that I'm back home, and my camera's had a chance to sit in the charger and re-energize its batteries, I can share more photos of my trip to Eugene for the Black Sheep Gathering:

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There was this really cool little coffee shop and bakery in the downtown area where we went for lattes before the booths opened in the morning. I can't remember the name of the place! In this photo, Terri is knitting on her Shetland shawl.

A fair wouldn't be complete without entries, judging, and ribbons. Here are some entries that particularly caught my eye:

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Fire, a felted horse

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Rain, Fire's companion. These horses were needle-felted.

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An awesome, 3-ply handspun yarn. Two of the plies were a wool mix that was as soft as cashmere, and the third ply was silk that had tiny beads on it. The wool mix was a natural gray, and the silk ranged from pink to blue and back again. The beads were clear and sparkly. The spinner had knitted a sample lace swatch for her yarn, and proposed a shawl for it; she won a ribbon, of course! I am not yet a convert to spinning, but I could feel the attraction to making a special yarn like this that isn't available commercially. (And my faithful blog readers already know how much I like beads in knitting!)

In fact, I think spinning is useful for a couple of different situations: (1) As with the beaded yarn above, when what you want is an exquisite yarn that's not readily available, you'd want to spin your own. (2) For all of those patterns that say to hold 2 yarns together in knitting (or, for that matter, in weaving), in my opinion the results look better when the two yarns aren't simply just held together but are twisted 'round each other -- like you'd do if you spun them up on a spinning wheel.

A couple of obligatory photos from the animal barn:

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A Perendale in a camouflage coat! I thought this guy (gal?) was cute. As Terri explained to me, having the sheep wear coats keeps the tips of the wool from suffering sun damage, keeps the sheep cleaner (something I can already appreciate from our experience with horses), and so results in a better fleece that, generally, will also cost a little more because of the extra time and trouble of keeping the coat on the sheep.

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A Blue-faced Leicester ewe. Sheep are darned hard to photograph. They'll look at you so sweetly, and then, just as you get the camera focused and are ready to press the shutter button, they'll move away. I was using all of my best clucking and smacking sounds (perfected from years of working with horses) to try to keep their sheepy faces lifted toward the camera while I took the picture, but these two photos were my best shots. (Couple the fact that the sheep want to move with the fact that my camera was running out of battery power, and you'll understand why I'm not boring you with more photos of dimly-lit sheep's necks and rear ends.)

Another animal shot:
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When I picked up Terri for our trip, she got in the car and the first words out of her mouth were, "We're going to Euphoria, right?" Having Black Sheep Gathering and sheep on my mind, what I understood her to say was, "We're going to Ewe-phoria, right?" and of course I agreed. But if I had really known what she was referring to, I would have been the first to suggest it. You see, Terri used to live in Eugene, and she knew about this little shop that sells homemade chocolates, Euphoria. It's a block down from that coffeehouse where we had our breakfast and lattes. I brought back these horse chocolates for my kids, as well as some more sophisticated boxed chocolates for the adults in my household.

And now, Dear Reader, we come to the "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" chapter of Ideaphoria --

While Black Sheep Gathering does have offerings for knitters and weavers, it truly caters to spinners. I've already written about trying a drop spindle and some Shetland wool, under Terri's expert tutelage. Part of the Black Sheep Gathering as a fair involves sheep ranchers bringing their fleeces in for judging and sale. By mid-day Saturday, the judging had been completed, the fleeces were priced and ready for sale. Terri's purpose in going to Black Sheep Gathering was to buy a fleece or two.

On Saturday afternoon, I went with her to look at the barn full of fleeces. By the time that we got there, all of the top-prize winning fleeces had been snapped up, of course -- but there were still plenty to choose from. I followed Terri around, listening to her talk about crimp and staple length and ease of spinning. I had no basis for judging what might be desirable in a fleece, other than what to my eyes looked pretty, what to my novice hands felt soft, what to my pocketbook seemed notably high or low prices, and what to my trusting judgment were the few third-, fourth-, or fifth-place ribbons -- or no ribbons -- adorning those fleeces still left. (Since most of the prize winners were snapped up when the barn doors opened for the sale, few were remaining that had ribbons by the time we got there.) Terri bought two fleeces, but I bought none.

Sunday morning, we returned to the fairgrounds, for a final pass through the vendors' booths to see what bargains there were to be had. And we did pick up a few little odds and ends (a tape measure for me, another hank of yarn for Terri). And we made a final pass through the barn with the fleeces. A particular purebred Corriedale fleece, winner of a 4th place ribbon, had gone yet unclaimed. Shocking, but true. While Terri was busily choosing her third fleece, I had a quick chat with myself about buying a fleece. A totally unnecessary purchase. I'm a rookie spinner. Since I am not a fast knitter it has never made sense to me to add to an already slow project the up-front investment of time in making the yarn, too.

And yet, here was this gorgeous vanilla-colored, soft, 7.1 pound, 4th-place-ribbon-winning fleece begging for a home:

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I felt like I couldn't go wrong, with this one little project, and so I bought the Corriedale fleece -- but this doesn't mean that I am making a lifetime commitment to becoming a spinner, or being sucked into a vortex, as my Dear Readers are chuckling to themselves that they think is happening. When in Rome, do as the Romans do -- which roughly translates into, if the purpose of a sheep and wool fair is to buy fleeces for spinning, why not buy one and see what all the fuss is about?!

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I sent the fleece out to be washed, picked, carded, and otherwise processed into roving today.

Posted by Karen at June 28, 2005 04:45 PM

What a wonderful knitting get away,,,,,,,,,

I would find this allquite interesting to gain a better understanding of all that goes into the creation of yarn.
After seeing your 2 knitting get aways this year I am inspired to look to do so myself next year!

Living in Wisconsin,, we have wonderful teachers and camps going on as you do in your area ( though not as many) but if you add Minnesota , there are a few more.

I didnt know you liked beads in your knitting!

What fun way to spend a few days,,,,,
I am going to the Stitches Midwest this August for a few classes with friends of mine that opened a yarn shop and,,,they do not teach fair isle,, or in the round knitting ,,( which is great for me as I will be helping with this in the shop.)
The 3 of us are certain to have a good time though I would have prefered something other than the Stitches convention ( for some reason KNITTERS magazine is not one of my favorite magazines,) and,, , I had hopes of attending Meg Swanson's kntting camp this year but felt I need more fair isle kniting under my belt before I attend to make it worth my time. They are pretty advanced there,,,, ( ,,,,next year,,,,next year)

It seems like they ( At Stitches Midwest) do not really have a lot of "traditional " knitting which is my main area of interest.
How do you find out about all the events that are going on in the knitting world?
Maybe I will have to pay closer attention to listings in Interweave Knits,,,,

Please let me know any resources ,,if possible.

At least I found 2 knitting guilds to look into this fall,,,one in Madison( Wisconisn) and the other in Illinois ( only 1 hour away ).
Both are active teaching /guest speaker guilds.

Now,,,,,if ONLY I could find a fair isle knitting group in my area,,I would be in heaven!!

good knitting to all!

Posted by: Pam at June 29, 2005 04:27 AM

One more thing,,,,,
how great is this to knit,,,,have some lattes,,and chocolates?
does it get any better that that?
I dont think so,,,,,,,,
good knitting,

Posted by: Pam at June 29, 2005 04:29 AM

Pam -- I get a lot of inspiration and support from my knitting guilds! I belong to two: the big Seattle Knitters Guild, and the smaller Lacy Knitters Guild. I hope you can find one in your area that can be as inspiring and supportive for you as mine are for me.

The main way I find out about knitting events is through word-of-mouth. (And everyone I know who's been to Meg's knitting camps has only high praise for the event.)

I have a hunch that traditional knitting will make a comeback!

Posted by: Karen at June 29, 2005 08:20 AM

I love the Ewe/Euphoria bit.

Posted by: Kit at June 29, 2005 11:40 AM

well, i am willing to adopt your fleece if it decides to be not spun at your house! in other knittine knews (and this one is partly your fault) i finally sent in my money for the first step in the path of mastering knitting. :)

Posted by: marti at June 29, 2005 12:26 PM

Wonderful news on the fleece Karen!
(I love spinning Corriedale and could probably be easily persuaded to spin some up for you...)

Posted by: Angela at June 29, 2005 12:55 PM

Beautiful Fleece Karen! spinning is wonderfull.

Posted by: Devorah at June 29, 2005 01:31 PM

Gee, thanks everybody, for all the offers of taking in this fleece if this project proves too overwhelming for me! (chuckle)

And Marti, about that Master Knitting stuff -- a major part of the process is simply to follow the directions. When you get your Level I instructions, do exactly what they say to do (no more, no less). The techniques that you will have to show that you've "mastered" are very incremental, one step at a time. Level I, in particular, goes very quickly. Would be happy to talk with you in person about it!

Posted by: Karen at June 30, 2005 08:21 AM

Just wanted to take a look at the blog today and see if you had recieved your fleece back.
I dont know how long these things take as I am not a spinner.
I have always been TEMPTED to try and spin ,,, there is a shop (about an hour away) that has days open for anyone who cares to try their hand at this,,,, using their equipment.

I think it may be fun to take a field trip with some knitting friends and give it a go,,,,, We have talked about it for a few months now.

Let us know how you enjoy this process of spinning!

I also want to share the fact that I am reading KNTTING IN THE OLD WAY and really am loving every single minute of it!
Its a fantastic book which I may now have to purchase for my home library ,,,because I do have to give it back to the public library! ( guess they would want it back,,,,,,)

It is one of THE best resource books for the tradional knitter I have ever read,,,,

good knitting to you all,,,,,

Posted by: pam at July 12, 2005 10:31 AM

Well, now, you won't want to spin 7 pounds of fleece on a SPINDLE, so you'll need a WHEEL. And you can't buy a wheel and then decide you're not really going to USE it much. So, you are COOKED!

Posted by: CarolineF at July 12, 2005 12:51 PM

Pam, I think it takes about a month for the fleece to get processed, give or take a week or two to allow for (a) a busy summer season with lots of people sending in fleeces, and/or (b) a busy summer season with the fleece-processor going around to exhibit at all the different fairs. And I'm in no hurry, as I really don't know what I'll be doing with that fleece when I get it back!

Caroline, on the last day of the Black Sheep Gathering there were some *awesome* deals on wheels . . . Terri kept pointing out to me a Schacht wheel that was marked down $300 because the vendor didn't want to have to pack it up and take it back home. But I managed to resist!! A Schacht wheel might have been right at home with my Schacht loom and my Schacht drop spindle -- but NO! I did not bring that baby home.

I'm secretly hoping -- that is, as secretly as one can manage to hope while posting such a thing on the internet -- that I might be able to borrow a wheel from a friend. It's only *one little fleece*, after all.

But you are absolutely right! I don't want to spindle spin 7 pounds (or however many pounds I get back from Dawn's Custom Carding)!!!

Posted by: Karen at July 12, 2005 05:20 PM